'The Seductions of Rice'

November 11,, 2011

Home & Garden

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Katherine Martinko

There is a great Canadian cookbook entitled “The Seductions of Rice”, whose title captures for me exactly what I love about rice. 

It is a shape-shifter food, able to transform itself into a myriad of forms that have roots around the world – plain steamed rice, buttered rice, fried rice, pilaf, risotto, soups, stuffings, and breads.  Though I was already a sworn victim of rice’s seductive power, nothing prepared me for how delicious it is in the form of rice pudding.  I was only recently introduced to the wonders of rice pudding, and only because I lacked the ingredients to make anything else.  Much to my delight, the rice pudding recipe that I tried went above and beyond what I’d expected.  I’d never imagined that rice could be seductive even as a sweet!  

Rice pudding has a rich history.  There are numerous references to it in English literature, by writers such as Charles Dickens, Henry James, Jane Austen, and A. A. Milne.  Interestingly, it is always paired with “boiled mutton” and spoken of in derogatory terms – a simple meal that the literary characters would rather not be eating if they had another option!  Though I can’t vouch for the boiled mutton, I’ll never turn down a serving of rice pudding these days.  

This recipe is for a warm rice pudding and is prepared on the stovetop, as opposed to the oven.  It’s easy, but requires regular vigilance, which I learned the hard way; my husband has requested that I not make “Cajun-style rice pudding” ever again!


Rice Pudding

4 cups  whole milk

˝ cup  short-grain white rice (i.e. Italian-style or Arborio)

7 tbsp  white sugar

1   vanilla bean (or 1 tsp natural vanilla extract)

1  3-inch cinnamon stick

2  large egg yolks

Lightly sweetened whipped cream for serving (optional)

1. In a 4-quart saucepan, combine 4 cups of the milk with the rice and sugar.  With a paring knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and add them to the pan.  Add the scraped bean and the cinnamon stick and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat as necessary to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring frequently but gently, until rice is completely tender, about 25 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks until smooth.  Whisk in 1 cup of the hot rice mixture.  Pour the egg mixture back into the pan and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended.  Put the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, just until the mixture begins to boil, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, discard the cinnamon stick and the vanilla bean.  Spoon warm pudding into small bowls and serve immediately with a generous dollop of whipped cream.

Serves 6.

From “Fine Cooking” magazine, June/July 2011

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Friday, November 11, 2011