I remember several years ago when I first visited Savannah and waited in line to eat at Paula Deen's restaurant The Lady and Sons. Fried chicken amazing--couldn't get enough, collard greens perfect, biscuits absolutely divine...but the banana pudding filling tasted like it came out of a can. Definitely not homemade or even made with instant Jello pudding mix--in my opinion. I was so disappointed it nearly ruined my meal. Thankfully, I was extremely full and survived this dessert disaster. To this day I'm still not sure what about that pudding was so disappointing--it just didn't taste like the dessert my mother always made for Sunday dinners and family barbecues...and it is really hard to mess up banana pudding in any way, shape, or form.
My friend Gina Schroeder's recipe for banana pudding has a few truly Southern ingredients that are pretty much must haves for any version of this dessert: condensed milk, instant Jello boxed pudding mix, and frozen Cool Whip. Just go with it OK? You'll be coming back for seconds or thirds, if there are miraculously any leftovers. In my mother's book, this would be a fancy version because of the "French" vanilla instant pudding and sour cream. Helen Elizabeth followed the directions on the back of the Jello box, just like any other 1960's mom with 4 kids would do. And we were thankful just to have dessert in those days!
Yes, the box recipe could maybe/possibly be improved with a homemade cream filling, caramelized bananas, and freshly whipped cream. Or perhaps one could make homemade meringue to put on top and brown in the oven for a more dramatic appearance. But why would you want to do that and tick off your grandmothers, mothers, or great-aunts? Trust me they might haunt you for life. I think the "instant" part of this recipe may be the saving grace on my end.
Keep it simple and enjoy what I think is one of the South's truly grand desserts. Remember you're sharing with family and friends at a backyard barbecue. This is what Texans eat when they are with family, along with chocolate Sheath Cake and peach cobbler with Blue Bell Peach ice cream. We wouldn't have it any other way.
|OK--I decorated the top a little with crumbled wafers. That's about as fancy as it is going to get.|
2 3-1/2 ounce boxes of Jello Instant French Vanilla Pudding
2 cups of milk
1 can of Eagle Brand condensed milk
1 8 ounce carton of sour cream
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 12-ounce box Nabisco Vanilla Wafers
6 ripe, but still firm bananas
1 pint frozen Cool Whip, softened overnight in refrigerator
Mix pudding and milk together until blended. Add Eagle Brand milk, sour cream, vanilla, and 1/2 of the Cool Whip.
In a glass bowl, layer pudding, vanilla wafers, and bananas. Repeat until you run out of pudding. If you prefer you can crumble the wafers, but we like them whole for that soft cookie taste.