When I was growing up, my sister Jill and I always ordered rice pudding for dessert when we went to Fromin's Deli. Fromin's was our "go-to" deli and our family ate there often. Anyone from the San Fernando Valley knows Fromins. It's practically a Jewish landmark. (And by the way, yes, I'm a valley girl.) But moving on, rice pudding was always the perfect ending to a deli meal. Well, rice pudding and a black and white cookie, but we'll save my exploration of the cookie for another time. Jill and I just loved the pudding and often had to eat defensively to keep our mother from having a wandering spoon. (Anyone who remembers my mother will no doubt remember the wandering spoon.)
I rarely make rice pudding these days. It's fattening, or at least for it to be really delicious it should be really fattening, and it doesn't seem to be a big fan favorite around here. Charlie is a big pudding fan, but he usually goes for the chocolate pudding, and he's away at school anyway. Kate has never seemed all that excited about rice pudding either. Ted, like me, probably doesn't need to eat a dessert made with heavy cream, so rice pudding remains something firmly entrenched in my childhood memories.
That is until I saw Ina make Rum Raisin Rice Pudding on her show the other day. Come on, this sounded too decadent to pass up. And it's made with half and half not cream, so it's practically a diet food. I had to try it.
To say this rice pudding is rich would be an understatement. It's positively sinful. It takes Fromin's rice pudding and kicks it to the curb as a sad substitute for what rice pudding can be. This rice pudding is "beyond".
You'll be cheating yourself if you don't try this recipe. It's the perfect comfort dessert, and it's made with half and half not cream so it's technically "lower calorie". That erases any potential food guilt, don't you think? It certainly did for me.
Recipe: Rum Raisin Rice Pudding
(Barefoot Contessa Family Style, 2002)
3/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons dark rum
3/4 cup white basmati rice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
1 extra large egg, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In a small bowl, combine the raisins and the rum. Set aside.
Combine the rice and the salt with 1 1/2 cups water in a medium heavy-bottomed stainless steel saucepan. Bring it to a boil, stir once, and simmer, covered on the lowest heat for 8 to 9 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed. (If your stove is very hot, pull the pan halfway off the burner.)
Stir in 4 cups of half-and-half and sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 25 minutes, until the rice is very soft. Stir often, particularly toward the end. Slowly stir in the beaten egg and continue to cook for 1 minute. Off the heat, add the remaining cup of half-and-half, the vanilla, and the raisins with any remaining rum. Stir well. Pour into a bowl, and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Serve warm or chilled.