Thursday, March 31, 2011

Presentation Matters

We were invited over to the in-laws for dinner tonight.  My husband missed out on pot roast the last time his mom made it so she is making another one...for her "baby". *insert eye roll*  However, my mother in law does not do desserts (or rarely).  And my father in law LOVES desserts.  Banana cream pie in particular.  And what a coincidence...I happened to have all the makings of banana cream pie at home. Which makes it a two-fer...I bring dessert and score points with the father in law.  WHOOT!
I wish I could say that I have this original recipe for banana cream pie, but I don't.  I have found that Betty Crocker's Banana Cream Pie recipe (actually, in the Betty Crocker Cookbook, it's really the Coconut cream pie, minus the coconut and with more vanilla, but the link shows the exact recipe).   I DO however take a shortcut.  I found years ago that my hands are simply too warm to work with pie dough. My hands melt the shortening in the dough and makes the crust tough.  Luckily, I have found Pillsbury All Ready Pie crusts are about as close to the real thing as you can get (AND lots easier).  So I use those.
I am going to digress for just a moment.  My dad was in the Air Force and he learned through the mess hall that presentation DOES matter.  He found that the eye can fool the stomach into believing something will taste as good as it looks.  I think most wedding cakes are proof of this.  Well, except mine.  Mine was the exception because it didn't taste as good as it looked, it was INFINITELY better.  But that's another post.  So, he taught me early in my "culinary career" that when I served something, that I just needed to take a few extra seconds to make something ordinary, extraordinary.  My mashed potatoes for example...I do not set them on the table without a dab of butter in the center and a sprinkle of parsley and paprika on top.  It makes it pretty.
So, back to the banana cream pie.  I could slather the top with cool whip (GAG) or I could take the extra step and whip up some fresh whipped cream, which really takes seconds.  I could slather the top with just whipped cream, but then the Pampered Chef  Easy Accent Decorator that I worked so hard to earn back when I was consulting would be yet another tool taking up space in my kitchen drawers.  And really, how long did it take to fill the tube, gently decorate the top of the pie?  Maybe 5 minutes.  Of course that really should have been all that was necessary but in cooking, I can sometimes be a bit of an over achiever (it helps to compensate for those areas in which I fail miserably).  So, I thinly slices a strawberry and fanned it out  in the center and sprinkled some sliced almonds on top.  I think the overall effect works, don't you?
Dad is SO right...presentation matters. But not for the purpose of fooling you.  This really does taste as good as it looks.  Honest.

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