We opted to place ourselves under house arrest this weekend due to temperatures that, calculated with the wind chill, dropped below -40 at night. We wore our thickest socks and wrapped blankets around our shoulders against the chill that 100 year old windows do little to keep out. And since going to the store requires going outside, it was also an eat-what-we-have weekend – fortunately there was milk and cream and rice and coffee, and I know how to bake bread. We did not starve.
We talked about rice pudding on CBC last week, and it reminded me how much I adore it. Most often, I make rice pudding with the last of the rice in the pot, having made too much. I pour in plenty of milk, add some sugar or maple syrup or honey, then walk away and forget that I’ve done so – and later do penance by scrubbing the pot and the stovetop the boiling milk has overflowed onto. Even without the walking away part, this isn’t an ideal rice pudding method – starting with steamed long grains that have already separated themselves from each other. Most rice puddings of that sort (the fluffy-creamy-stovetop kind) start with short-grain rice like Arborio. I decided to take the direct route, with the intent to make a pot of diner-style rice pudding, rather than treat it as a salvage mission.
Some rice puddings are custardy with eggs or yolks, but this contains neither – just rice, half & half, sugar and vanilla. I snipped a chunk of bean out of my jar of homemade vanilla – which is really just vanilla beans preserved in vodka – but a splash of extract works, too. Or if you thought to tuck a bean into a jar of sugar, you could just add a shake of the infused sugar – or if you’re willing to spend an extra three minutes, whiz a whole bean into the sugar in the food processor for an even more intense, speckled ash-coloured vanilla sugar you can use straight from the jar. I love seeing the seeds.
We ate some warm, some cold, and some frozen – I took advantage of the arctic air and froze the insert to my ice cream maker, then turned half the rice pudding into frozen rice pudding – essentially dense, creamy ice cream that tastes like rice pud. For reals.
I’m a rice pudding purist – while I occasionally crave mine studded with raisins and sprinkled with cinnamon, most often I’ll go for straight-up cream and vanilla. But feel free to stir in a handful of raisins at the end, and finish your bowl with a dusting of cinnamon.
Creamy Rice Pudding
Although there are many, many similar versions of this stove-top rice pudding around, I took my initial direction from Dave Lieberman.
1/2 cup short grain (Arborio) rice
2 tsp. butter
2 cups whole milk or half & half
1/4 cup sugar (white or brown)
1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp. good vanilla
In a medium saucepan, bring the rice, butter and 1 cup water to a simmer; cook for 15 minutes, until tender. Add the cream, sugar and vanilla (bean or extract) and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the rice absorbs most of the cream and the mixture is thick and creamy.
Serve immediately, while still warm, or cool it down – if it thickens up too much, stir in a little more cream to loosen it up.