Testing One of the Most Unhinged Recipes on the InternetPhoto by Samantha Maxwell Food Features recipes
There is no shortage of baffling recipes from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s on the internet, ranging from tomato juice-infused Jell-O to frozen cheese salad. But few are as upsetting as the ham-banana casserole. It’s just as baffling as it sounds: bananas slathered in mustard, wrapped in ham, covered in a cheese sauce and baked. I had to try it for myself, and the results were… unexpected, to say the least.
Gathering the ingredients was the first challenge, although I had most of what I needed at home. The recipe called for boiled ham, but as I wasn’t planning on eating an entire ham, I just went with cold cuts instead. I also wondered why it was important to use “green-tipped” bananas, but I came to realize that it was probably for the extra acidity—or maybe it just ensured that the bananas wouldn’t turn to absolute mush in the oven.
The hardest part of the recipe was making the cheese sauce, and that wasn’t even that challenging. Butter, flour, salt, milk and cheddar cheese came together to make a thoroughly unseasoned sauce. I thought about adding pepper or something, anything to give this recipe more flavor, but I resisted the urge for the sake of journalism.
My favorite part of making this recipe had to be spreading the slices of ham with mustard and them wrapping them around the bananas. Yes, ham-wrapped bananas look exactly what you would think ham-wrapped bananas would look like, and when they all nestled together in their casserole dish, they looked like they were straight out of an X-rated horror film.
I poured more melted butter over the ham-wrapped bananas as instructed and then slathered them with cheese sauce—it somehow looked even less appetizing after I completed this process. Then, into the oven the “casserole” went. I waited 15 minutes with bated breath. I have to admit, the smell of baking bananas was not a bad one. It reminded me of baking banana bread, though I was markedly less excited than I would be for a slice of banana bread.
The timer tinged, and the moment of truth was finally upon me. I snapped some photos, of course, but that could only delay the inevitable for so long. I actually had to try it. I had to put a piece of ham-wrapped banana covered in a sad cheese sauce in my mouth, chew and swallow. I had done this to myself. I had asked for this. And this was my moment of truth.
The banana had gotten quite soft in the oven, but the ham had only hardened, so it was tricky to cut. Once I had managed to get a bite-sized piece on my fork, I took a bite. And, readers, don’t come for me, but I was pleasantly surprised by the result.
Baked bananas are objectively good on their own, so I wasn’t surprised that the sweet mushiness of the banana was pleasant. The addition of ham wasn’t as egregious as you may think, especially when you consider the old combo of ham and pineapple on pizza—it’s not that different when you think about it. The mustard added a kick of flavor (which was desperately needed here). Truthfully, I could have done without the cheese sauce because it was just so bland, but because there was so much butter in the sauce, it wasn’t offensive in the slightest.
Looking at a photo of ham-banana casserole, you may assume that the people who made this recipe in the past just had horrible taste. Admittedly, this recipe isn’t the most flavorful, nor would I make it for friends and family. But you really can’t assume you’re going to hate something until you try it for yourself. Ham-banana casserole wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be, and if you really, really like bananas (I don’t), it’s probably at least a solid recipe.
Moral of the story? Don’t judge a book by its cover, I guess. Or, maybe more importantly, the moral of the story is that covering anything in half a stick of butter is going to make it taste good—even ham-wrapped bananas.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.