Would you guess that Louisiana is famous for icebox pies? Probably not. However, several iconic diners across the state have a reputation for fine icebox pies. The family diner, Strawn’s Eat Shop, in Shreveport is one such spot. This restaurant is the inspiration for Denise’s Banana Cream Icebox Pie with Toasted Coconut which I am making for Mother’s Day. It is an old-fashioned and sentimental pie.
Iconic Diners – Lea’s Lunchroom
Louisiana has several iconic diners in small towns. They are not audacious restaurants, just family owned with the comfort food of Americana. No famous chef here–just plate lunches, ham sandwiches, ice box pies and plenty of sentimental value.
One diner with a reputation for icebox pies is Lea’s Lunchroom in Lecompte, Louisiana. For a geography lesson, Lecompte the middle of the state–in the heart of rural Louisiana–and is surrounded by plantations; cotton and soybean fields. The diner is located on a busy two-lane state highway (Hwy 71) which was the only way to travel to northern Louisiana before the interstate was completed just a few years. Travelers going on a journey from New Orleans to Shreveport were well aware of this diner because you drove right by it. Established in 1928, it has become an iconic resting stop for travelers over the years.(www.zomato.com/photos/pv-res-17438769-u_Mzc5MjkzOTYxMj#)
We always knew Lea’s Lunchroom was ahead and planned to stop there for a break and coffee. And a piece of pie. Daily pies varieties “included coconut, lemon, chocolate, banana, apple, peach, cherry and the best-selling flavor, pecan. The six seasonal flavors are pumpkin, mincemeat, sweet potato, blueberry, blackberry and dewberry.” Our favorite was chocolate pie, of course. (http:www.leaslunchroom.com/lecompte/History.html)
Banana Cream Icebox Pie Story – Strawn’s Eat Shop
My friend, Alice, grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana. Her family frequently ate at Strawn’s Eat Shop, a family owned diner which opened in 1944 across the street from the Centenary College campus. Their favorite dessert was the banana cream pie. Alice’s sister recently had a big birthday celebration and the pie on the dessert menu. Of course, the pie wasn’t as good as family remembered from 50 years ago. So Alice’s son David and daughter-in-law, Denise–both foodies–got busy and made their own creation. Everyone agreed it equaled Strawn’s pies of years ago.
The photo is from YELP. (http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/strawns-eat-shop-shreveport?select=IMR9P_aGyfMYs2jbHu0o8A)
What is an Icebox Pie?
An ice box pie is a pie that must be refrigerated. And prior to World War II, much of rural America didn’t have electricity. So farmers had an “ice box” in their kitchens which was an insulated wooden cabinet with a container for a large block of ice. This kept food — including icebox pies — cool for several days in the summer time. The ice had to be replaced every few days.
These images of iceboxes are from wikipedia. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icebox) and are similar to one’s I’ve seen in antique shops.
Replacing ice this often seems like a lot of work — and it is amazing to me to think how far our world has changed in less than 100 years! Who could imagine a world without electricity or the internet or cell phones? But this was the world my mother grew up in!
Denise’s recipe is a rich, cream pie made with sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks. Some bananas are sauteed in brown sugar and and added to the cream filling and others are sliced and layered in the pie shell. After chilling, the pie is topped with toasted coconut. Delicious! Here are the ingredients.The pie shell can be either a standard baked shell or a graham cracker crust. I’m using a purchased graham cracker crust for this pie–just for convenience. Here are two bananas layered into the pie shell.
The cream filling consists of sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks and cornstarch dissolved in water. A very easy filling. The tip here is to cook the filling using either a double boiler or on medium-low heat and to stir constantly. Sir and stir and don’t stop. Or the filling will become lumpy. Pour the filling, remaining banana and vanilla extract into the pie shell and let chill for four hours.
I don’t use much coconut because it’s not one of my favorites. To toast coconut; spread in thin layer on a shallow baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Toss often. Mine burnt. Wait until the pie is chilled to sprinkle over the pie.
Kitchen Gadget – Flat-bottomed Wooden Spoon
I discovered a neat kitchen gadget — a flat bottom wooden spoon — that allows you to stir all the bottom of the pot so that the filling does not stick or become lumpy. I recommend that every chef or cook have this gadget in their kitchen supplies.
Denise's Banana Cream Icebox Pie with Toasted Coconut
- purchased 9″ graham cracker pie shell or homemade pie shell
- 2 cups coconut flakes
- 3 bananas, divided
- 3 Tbsp butter, divided
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 3 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1-1/3 cup cold water
- 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 3 egg yolks, well-beaten to a light yellow color
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Whipped cream or cool whip topping
Method and Steps
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Layer coconut flakes in a shallow layer on baking sheet. Toast for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool.
- Slice one banana and saute in 1 Tbsp butter and brown sugar. Set aside and let cool.
- Mix cornstarch and cold water in a medium-sized sauce pan and stir to dissolve and combine. Add sweetened condensed milk and well beaten egg yolks.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. May used a wire whisk or flat-bottomed wooden spoon.
- When thick, add vanilla extract, remaining 2 Tbsp butter and sauteed bananas.
- Remove from heat, continue stirring while mixture is cooling.
- Slice remaining two bananas, arrange in bottom of pie shell.
- Pour slightly cooled pudding mixture over the sliced bananas in pie shell.
- Place in the refrigerator until the pie is chilled, approximately four hours.
- Sprinkle top of pie with toasted coconut.
- Serve with dollops of whipped cream or cool whip topping.