Thursday, February 5, 2009

101. Best Rice Pudding (p. 827)

If this recipe* is the "Best Rice Pudding," then what does that mean for the other rice pudding recipe in The Book (Dried Cherry and Raisin Rice Pudding, p. 827)? Is it the "second-best" rice pudding, or (perish the thought!) the "worst" rice pudding? I'm sure that any offense to the other rice pudding recipe was unintended by The Book's editors.

Well, I'll just have to wait until I've made both rice puddings until I can say for sure that this one really is the "best," but for the time being, I can vouch for it being pretty darn good.

I can't remember the last time I had rice pudding, but I know that I like it. It's sweet, creamy and starchy. It's one of those great comforting, old-fashioned dishes that makes you feel warm and happy.

To make this dish, I started by making some white rice flavored with butter, salt and lemon zest. (Before I went any further, I tasted the rice, and made a note to myself that this lemony-buttery rice would be good with some grilled fish.) Next I simmered some whole milk, sugar and half of a vanilla bean sliced in half lengthwise. I've never cooked with real vanilla beans before. I've always been scared off by the price (more than $8 for two beans at my local mega-mart!). I suppose I have to admit that it really did make a difference. The vanilla flavor in the finished pudding was delicious and intense, and not at all like the flavor you get from vanilla extract, even the good stuff.

Finally, I stirred in the cooked rice and some raisins and simmered until most of the liquid had absorbed and it had the texture of risotto.

The Book says to cool until just warm before serving. I made this the day before I was going to serve it, though. So, I cooled it to room temperature and put it in the refrigerator overnight. Just before I served it, I put the pudding in small bowls and heated it up in the microwave for about a minute. A little dusting of cinnamon on top, and it was ready to enjoy.

This pudding was great. Nothing fancy, just a simple, comforting, warming dessert with a wonderful creaminess and texture. The intense but smooth vanilla flavor and the plump, sweet raisins make this pudding special. My wife had some of the leftover pudding the next day cold. I tasted it that way, but it wasn't for me. I preferred it warm.

Date Cooked: January 24, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: B+

*There are lots of rice pudding recipes on, but this isn't one of them.

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