Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rice Pudding

Rice pudding is one of my favorite comfort foods. It's funny to think that most of the people I have met weren't familiar with it. The best comparison is that it's like tapioca pudding. It's custard with rice.


I have fond childhood memories of coming home from school to find the same rectangular covered glass dish in the fridge filled with this heavenly treat. It was almost torture to have to wait until dessert to eat it. I think knowing it was there made whatever we had for dinner disappear faster.

Once I left home for college, this became a special-occasion treat for me. I didn't get to make it very often. It's time consuming and requires constant attention. If I went home to visit Mom and Dad and found some in the fridge, well, it was history.

At some point, I was shopping for grocieries and noticed Kozy Shack rice pudding in a tub by the refrigerated Jell-o. I was curious. So I have to say, Kozy Shack is a reasonable substitute when I don't have the time to make a batch. And on the flipside, if you are looking to clone Kozy Shack's recipe, my rice pudding recipe is about as good as you can get. Of course, the type of rice used will effect the overall consistency.

For this batch, I used a medium grain rice called Silver Pearl from Hinode. It was good. The rice was nice and plump, tender grains that really melted in your mouth. If you want rice with a little more body, you could use a long-grain rice, but those varieties don't act the same. They are slightly firmer and hold their shape more than shorter varieties. Short and medium varieties seem to blend into the custard without dissolving. I don't know a real technical term for that. Just make a batch and see what I mean.

Just a note, if you are acquainted with Thai food, this if similar. It was certainly no stretch for me to enjoy Sticky Rice with Mango after loving Mom's rice pudding my whole life.

Ingredients
4 cups milk (1 quart)
3/4 cup uncooked regular rice, medium or short grain
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 egg yolks, from extra large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup half and half

Method
1. Combine milk, rice, salt, and vanilla in a medium saucepan. Cover and cook over low to medium heat, stirring frequently.


2. Bring to a simmer and cook about 20-30 minutes or until rice is tender and the milk is pretty much absorbed. The time will depend on the rice you're using. This batch with the Silver Pearl rice absorbed the milk, but it was still very creamy because the rice sort of released its starch into the milk as it cooked, thickening the milk. (Note, not all the milk will get absorbed. It's not like when you make steamed rice with water.)


3. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk together.


4. Gradually stir in a small portion of the hot rice into the egg mixture. I mean a spoonful at a time and whisk like crazy. This is called tempering. Do this so the yolks won't cook and curdle in the hot pan. Keep adding a little more hot rice at a time until about half of the rice mixture is mixed into the egg mixture. If you feel the bowl, it should be slightly warmer than body temperature.


5.Add egg mixture to the pan with the remaining rice and mix well.


6. Cook over low heat stirring occasionally until it just comes to a boil. Remove from heat.

7. Serve warm or cold. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon or dried fruit for some color. Keep refrigerated.

Note: Watch simmering rice because it easily could boil over or scorch. If you like a little more rice, you can use 1 cup of rice. The recipe uses 3/4 cup rice so there is a bit more custard in each bite that way.