Chef Emeril Is Top Banana, Dishes Free Pie To Patrons Today
Lundi Gras, Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, National Banana Cream Pie Day. It’s been quite the celebratory week, and local celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse is getting in on the goodwill by serving up free slices of his signature banana cream pie today, Thursday, March 2, at Emeril’s, 800 Tchoupitoulas St.
From 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and from 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., every main dining room table ordering entrées and celebrating the national pie holiday will get a free slice of Emeril’s creamy, dreamy dessert, and the Emeril Lagasse Foundation will donate 10 pounds of bananas for each slice of banana cream pie presented throughout the day to Liberty’s Kitchen as part of its School Nutrition Program.
“The banana cream pie is our number one seller and has been for years,” Emeril’s General Manager Kevin Delaune said.
Delaune worked with Lagasse at Commander’s Palace before he became part of team that opened Emeril’s in the Warehouse District in 1990. Since then, more than 3 million customers have sampled Emeril’s contemporary “New New Orleans” cuisine at the corner of Julia and Tchoupitoulas streets, and nearly 375,000 banana cream pies with graham cracker crusts, caramel sauce and chocolate shavings have been baked and sold. Restaurant reps said this popular pie has been on the menu since opening day, and Emeril’s has sold about 3 million slices. Selling at a current $8 a pop, that’s more than $24 million in sales in just pie – a sweet treat for Emeril’s bottom line.
Delaune said Emeril’s recipe for success for his flagship restaurant, soon to usher in its 27th year on Sunday, March 26, relies on two things. “You have to have the passion, number one,” he said. “Especially in this business, if you’re not passionate you’ll run out of gas real quickly. And consistency. I think people will come back to your restaurant if you provide them with a great experience every time that they come in.”
“If you’re going to open up a small business or a restaurant, what a better town to do it in,” Delaune said of New Orleans. “A town that offers some of the best food and hospitality along with entertainment that you can’t find anywhere. With that you have to have the energy and the passion and the support of our locals. That’s one thing that we’ve done great over the years is targeting our locals making them customers and doing whatever it takes to get them back into the restaurant. We want to impress them more than they’ve been impressed anywhere else in the city.”
Today, lunch and dinner guests will have the opportunity to devour pastry chef Jeremy Fogg’s banana cream pie, and also contribute to helping Liberty’s Kitchen prepare fresh made-from-scratch meals for New Orleans charter/public school children with Emeril’s plentiful banana bunch donation. Through Liberty’s School Nutrition Program, about 4,000 freshly-prepared and nourishing meals are served daily to New Orleans low-income public school kids.
“Our program is a model for changing the eating patterns among low and extremely low-income children, demonstrating that nutritious and healthy food can be successfully served in our schools,” Liberty’s Kitchen reps said. “Healthy, active, and well-nourished children are more likely to attend school and are more prepared and motivated to learn.”
Banana Cream Pie with Caramel Drizzles and Chocolate Sauce
PREP TIME: 1 hour
TOTAL TIME: 8 hours
YIELD: Makes one 9-inch pie; serves 10
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and seeds scraped
- 3 large egg yolks
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- Graham Cracker Crust
- 3 pounds (about 9) firm but ripe bananas, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Caramel Sauce
- Chocolate Sauce
- Shaved chocolate, for garnish
- Confectioners' sugar, for garnish
- Fresh mint, for garnish
Combine 2 cups cream, the milk, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla bean and seeds in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil, whisking to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat.
Combine egg yolks, eggs, cornstarch, and 1 cup sugar in a medium bowl; whisk until pale yellow in color. Set aside.
Whisk 1 cup hot cream mixture into egg yolk mixture. Gradually add egg mixture to hot cream mixture, whisking constantly. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly with a large wooden spoon to cook out cornstarch and thicken mixture, about 5 minutes. (The mixture may separate slightly; if so, remove from heat and beat with an electric mixer until thick and smooth.) 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 refrigerator for about 4 hours.
To assemble, spread 1/2 cup custard over the bottom of the prepared crust, smoothing with the back of a large spoon or rubber spatula. Arrange enough banana slices (not quite one-third) in a tight, tiled pattern over custard, pressing down with your hands to pack them firmly. Repeat to build a second layer, using 3/4 cup custard and enough bananas to cover, smoothing down the layer evenly. For the third layer, spread 3/4 cup of custard over bananas and top with remaining bananas, starting 1 inch from outer edge and working toward center. Spread 1 cup custard evenly over bananas to prevent discoloration. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.
In a medium bowl, whip remaining 2 cups heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add remaining 2 teaspoons sugar and vanilla extract and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.
Remove pie from refrigerator. With a sharp knife dipped in hot water, cut pie into 10 equal slices. Transfer slices to dessert plates. Fill a pastry bag with whipped cream and pipe onto each slice. (Alternately, spread the whipped cream evenly over the pie before cutting.)
Drizzle each slice with caramel and chocolate sauces, sprinkle with chocolate shavings and confectioners' sugar, garnish with fresh mint, and serve.