In the Kitchen: Ham Banana Rolls (1950)

Dear Constant Reader,

Back in November, I wrote of my quest to prove the vintage recipe testers at Buzzfeed wrong and of the results of my first experiment, Olive-Cheese “Porcupine”. At that very same party, I also made a ham and banana dish. I had to do this at a party, because I wanted the feedback from several palates but also because I hate bananas.

I didn’t actually use the same recipe as the Buzzfeed folks. I could tell that theirs was going to be disgusting no matter how good a cook I am, so I found one that was similar, to prove that the recipe was at fault, not the dish concept. I used the recipe for Ham Banana Rolls with Cheese Sauce from a Chiquita Banana’s Recipe Book from 1950 while they made Ham and Bananas Hollandaise from the McCall’s Great American Recipe Card Collection from 1973. I’ll explain as I go how the two diverged.

Start with bananas, ham, mustard, butter, milk, flour, shredded cheese

Both recipes begin about the same. Take slices of boiled ham and spread with mustard. My recipe left the amount of mustard up to the cook, while theirs specified a teaspoon and a half per slice. I just covered each slice with a thin, even coating. Diverging from both recipes, I used baked ham instead of boiled, because I was going to be making my lunch out of the left-over meat and I don’t like boiled ham. Does anyone? Also, back when they probably used French’s yellow, but I used a brown deli mustard.

I wrapped the bananas in the mustard-smeared ham and then brushed the bare banana tips with melted butter. Their recipe says to sprinkle the bananas with lemon juice to keep them from browning (not so necessary I thought) before wrapping the bananas. In both cases the wrapped bananas go into a greased, shallow baking dish.

Now things get very different. Their bananas are baked at 400F for 10 minutes. I baked my bananas at 350F for 30 minutes, but first I had to pour cheese sauce over them.

The cheese sauce is really easy. Make a roux with butter and flour, then add milk. Then add grated cheese and cook until it’s all smooth and hot. I confess, I used sharp cheddar instead of the called-for sharp American because I already had a bag of shredded cheddar for the porcupine (and I like it better).

Instead of baking the bananas in cheese sauce, they added hollandaise sauce after baking. You mix an envelope of hollandaise sauce mix with some water, cream, and lemon juice bring it to a boil. Pour over the bananas and bake 5 minutes more.

Here’s a gratuitous picture of the chef with the finished product. My taste-testers wrote “This is something I will get a craving for in the future. So great!” and “Awesome combo. Maybe need more salt or sharpness but this is one of those surprising flavor combos I’m glad I tried.” Those who liked bananas really liked the bananas. They were nice and creamy and had transformed from “hot banana” into something very tasty. Those who liked ham liked that too, especially the part that was above the cheese sauce, as it got crispy and brown. The part of the ham that was completely submerged in the sauce was not as good, since it never browned. The mustard flavor didn’t blend well with the ham & banana and was a touch assertive. The cheese sauce was a little bland.

If I were to make this again, I’d add some dry mustard to the cheese sauce (and salt & pepper), shred the ham and sprinkle it on top of the bananas, instead of wrapping it around. It doesn’t make for as nice, tidy, and midcentury a presentation, but it solves all the problems above while keeping the good parts.

I’m not surprised that the Buzzfeed version got low marks. To start I think they followed the recipe to the letter and used boiled ham and yellow mustard. Although their bananas cook at a higher temperature, it’s for half the time. They probably didn’t get creamy and slightly caramelized like mine did. Also, they were cooked without the sauce, just having been seasoned with lemon juice, which I think was totally unnecessary. I doubt the bananas were going to get oxidized in the short time from peel to pan. Perhaps the recipe was deliberately trying to amp the lemon flavor. Also, I think brushing the exposed banana bits with butter in my recipe improved the flavor and helped them brown.

Lastly, and most importantly, I think their hollandaise sauce was a loser from the get-go. Maybe it could have been okay with an actual freshly made hollandaise, but a mix was right out. I’m sure adding extra lemon juice to an already lemon-flavored sauce mix didn’t help. I’m not sure why the recipe creator thought ham, banana, and lemon was going to be delicious. I know hollandaise was pretty popular in the ’70s. I’m sure it was seen as more chic than a pedestrian cheese sauce.

It probably deserved the reviews of “It’s kind of like a banana split made a baby with a hot dog? Oh, it’s very sour!” and “Even the bits of banana that graciously don’t have slop on them have absorbed the scent of lemon and mustard in a very aggressive way.”

So don’t every try the 1973 version with hollandaise, but the 1950 version with cheese sauce is actually worth making.

banana rolls cooked
Here’s the original recipe, straight from Chiquita:

Ham Banana Rolls with Cheese Sauce
4 thin slices boiled ham
Prepared mustard
4 firm bananas (all yellow or slightly green-tipped)
1 1/2 Tablespoons melted butter or margarine
Cheese Sauce

Spread each slice of ham lightly with mustard.

Peel bananas. Wrap a slice of prepared ham around each banana. Brush tips of bananas with butter or margarine.

Place Ham Banana Rolls into a greased shallow baking dish, and pour Cheese Sauce over them. Bake in a moderate oven (350°F) 30 minutes, or until bananas are tender… easily pierced with a fork.

Serve hot with the Cheese Sauce from the baking dish.

Serves 4

Cheese Sauce
1 1/2 Tablespoon butter or margarine
1 1/2 Tablespoons flour
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups grated sharp American cheese

Melt butter or margarine in saucepan; add flour and stir until smooth. Stir in milk slowly. Add cheese and cook, stirring constantly until sauce in smooth and thickened.
Makes about 1 cup sauce.

I’ll need to throw another party soon to try some of the other recipes.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 16 December 2015 at 3:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: