Just flew back from a WILD trip to Dallas this past week. Stayed with friends, enjoyed great company, great food, … Vanilla Ice, Ninja Turtles.. drunkenly prank calling some of my MasterChef “prison buddies” with Matt Orsini (remember him from my videos?).. and more. Truly epic trip.
One thing that I was particularly looking forward to, was meeting Ben Starr for the first time. As you may recall, Ben was my “Haymitch”, as I prepared for my brief stint on MasterChef. I realized this week that it’s been almost a year and a half since first contact!
After I arrived in Dallas, we planned to meet up on our second last night in Dallas – he would have my husband and I over for dinner, along with John – one of our friends that we were staying with. I was honestly kind of nervous – meeting people always makes me nervous, but Ben was even beyond that – someone I owed a good chunk of my sanity to, over the whole course of the past year and a half.
I don’t *ever* get star struck, but apparently I DO get “Starr” struck!
So, with a few hours to go before dinner, I texted him to once again ask if there was anything I could bring, hoping that I could get my mind off of “Man, I wonder what this whole thing would have been like, if I’d never contacted him”. I offered to bring dessert, and he accepted. Yes! Distraction!
Relief soon turned to stress, as I realized that I was in a kitchen that was not my own, with no real access to grocery stores, not a whole lot in the way of available ingredients, and only a few hours to go. Yay for speaking before thinking things out, eh?
We’d purchased the stuff to make a bananas foster bread pudding the following day – erring on the side of too much in the way of ingredients, as I hadn’t created the recipe yet. I quickly worked things out and could tell I had enough to make a bit of bananas foster… and I could easily make a pavlova. Done and done – and Pavlova IS my favourite dessert ever, afterall. Less than 10 minutes later, the pavlova was in the oven, and the wonderful aroma of bananas foster was wafting off the stovetop.
The hour+ drive to his house, I was so nervous. Would I say something stupid? What if I got really emotional about the last year and a half and just bawled on sight? What if he really hated my dessert?
Then, he answered the door in his underwear. I’d actually been so nervous I didn’t even notice, til he pointed it out. We laughed, and my social tension disappeared!
His business partner – from his underground dining venture, “Frank” – Jennie was there. They were both all kinds of awesome. Later on, Ben’s partner Christian arrived, and HE was all kinds of awesome. The whole evening was unbelievably awesome, and yes – I know I’m overusing awesome. IT WAS AWESOME. So much laughter. Such great food! An illicit absinthe collection, a chicken on the table… good times!
Anyway, I could yap all day about that evening (Did I mention that we had an AWESOME TIME?)… but I’m here to share a recipe!
So, here’s the bananas foster pav. Contrary to my early worries, it went over VERY well with the others!
This recipe is a bit different from a normal pavlova, in that I swap out half of the white sugar, for brown. This changes the texture – the inside of the meringue ends up almost cakey! It’s delicious, and is naturally gluten-free. Also, as has been road-tested… it’s a great recipe to pull out as a last minute sure-to-impress dessert!
Ok, I’m going to go get some sleep now…
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