Southern Biscuits with Sawmill Gravy
My husband's amazing take on a childhood favorite of mine.
This past week, I decided to make a from-scratch banana cream pie. This post is a long time coming.
Not because anything went badly, per se, but because it takes a REALLY long time to make a custard pie from scratch. Especially if you are new at it. Especially if you are alone but trying to get it done before your husband gets home from Texas the next day (that was Saturday) and it’s 12 a.m.
However, it was absolutely worth it. Here’s how it went:
I started with Emeril’s recipe for Banana Cream Pie, found here. I made a few changes, so what follows is what I actually used in the pie. Also, it is worth noting that this makes a HUGE HUGE pie. I tried to use a 9-inch like the original recipe said and not only was the crust recipe not enough for it, but there was WAY too much filling.
Combine the cream, the milk, 1/2 cup of the sugar, the vanilla bean, and the vanilla seeds in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.
Combine the egg yolks, eggs, cornstarch, and 1 cup of the sugar in a medium bowl, and whisk pale yellow in color. Set aside.
This is where it gets tricky. Whisk 1 ladle-full of the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks (whisk furiously!). Gradually add the egg mixture back into the hot cream. Keep whisking! This is called tempering – basically you mix the hot with the cold slowly so the eggs don’t cook and nothing curdles. The picture above shows after you’ve tempered and put it all back into the pan. Bring this pre-custard to a simmer, stirring constantly with a large wooden spoon to cook out the cornstarch and thicken the mixture. Emeril said this would take about 5 minutes, but it’s going to take a different amount of time depending on where you live, the weather that day, your stove, etc.
Here’s another part where you have to pay a lot of attention. Emeril’s recipe says, “The mixture may separate slightly. If so, remove from the heat and beat with an electric mixer until thick and smooth.” I say, it will definitely make weird little clumps that you will see on your spoon. Fear not! When it starts to make these little clumps, wait for a minute or so and then get your immersion blender and mix right in the pot, on the heat. It took probably 10-15 seconds of blending for my custard to turn from soupy, clumpy weirdness to custard, like so:
Believe me when I tell you that you will know it when you see it. Suddenly it looks like pie filling. And it was very sudden. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing down against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for about 4 hours.
Now chillax! The hard part is over, and now you get to make the crust at your leisure. Basically you have a four-hour window and the crust will take about a half hour.
Graham Cracker Crust:
One package (1/2 box) graham crackers
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Open your package of graham crackers and eat one cracker. Put the rest into a food processor and buzz until they are evenly-sized crumbs. Alternately, you can put them in a ziplock and gently pound them into crumbs with the side of a meat tenderizer or a rubber mallet (use a cutting board).
Combine the graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a bowl and mix well. Add the butter and mix well – similarly to a regular pie crust, you want it wet enough that if you pinch a bunch of the mixture, it sticks together in a ball. Press the mixture into the biggest pie pan you have (the one I used is TOO SMALL for the amount of filling) – try to make it about 1/4 inch thick all around. Top with aluminum pie tin and with a circular motion, press the crust tightly into the pan. Bake until browned, about 25 minutes. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
To assemble, spread 1/2 inch of the custard over the bottom of the prepared crust, smoothing with the back of a large spoon or rubber spatula. Here, you can really see how too-small my pie pan is. Arrange enough banana slices in a tight, tiled pattern over the custard, pressing down with your hands to pack them firmly (this is important. When there’s only a few pieces left in the pie, the bananas will try to slide around).
Repeat to build a second layer, using another 1/4 inch (about) of the custard and enough bananas to cover, smoothing down the layer evenly. For the third layer, spread 3/4 cup of custard over the bananas and top with the remaining bananas, starting 1-inch from the outer edge and working toward the center. Spread 1 cup of custard evenly over the bananas to prevent discoloration. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.
And there you have it. Folks, this pie is for real. The custard is the perfect texture (though it’s quite sweet) and with the bananas, you will never go back to using a mix for your pies. Emeril’s recipe calls for whipped cream, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce AND confectioner’s sugar on top. I just when with whipped cream, and it was heavenly.