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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Rice pudding isn't sexy... but it's so good.

The other day I was in the mood for rice pudding.  I know.  Rice pudding?  Who gets in the mood for rice pudding?  It's not a sexy pudding, like chocolate mousse.  It's not a trendy pudding like brioche bread pudding.

Nope.  It's just... Rice pudding.  Nice, comfortable, easy to eat, rice pudding.

My love affair with rice pudding is nothing new.  I used to order it every time we went to Junior's Deli on Westwood Boulevard in West L.A.  They made their pudding with golden raisins, and it was the absolute best thing ever.  My mother, who always made a big show of skipping dessert, would often try to sneak her spoon into my pudding, but I was quick, too quick, for her.  Junior's rice pudding was, for me, something to be savored.

I felt the same way about black and white cookies from the Beverlywood Bakery on Pico.  To this day, I am sure they are the gold standard of black and whites in Los Angeles.  Ditto the chocolate chip danish from Bea's Bakery.  Shortly after I moved to Pittsburgh, my friend Julie sent me a dozen Bea's chocolate chip danishes for my birthday.  That was, and still is, one of the very best presents I have ever received.

But back to the rice pudding.  This recipe is simple and just requires about 40 minutes where you'll want to be close to the stove.  It's important to give the pudding a nice little stir every couple of minutes, lest the milk  boils over and you end up with the mother of all messes on your nice, pristine stove.  (Yes, I know from which I speak...)  

I like this recipe for its simplicity.  It has just a couple of ingredients and it doesn't even matter what kind of milk you use.  (I would, however, skip the skim and go for something with a little milk fat.)  If you have a vanilla bean laying around, scrap the seeds into the mixture.  If not, just add the vanilla extract along with the almond extract once you've taken the cooked pudding off the stove.  Raisins are up to you.

I'm going to warn you that this pudding doesn't look like much.  Bust as with many things in life, looks can be deceiving.

Recipe:  Arborio Rice Pudding

Note:  Kate doesn't like raisins "in things" so I skipped them.  If you're using raisins, throw about 3/4 cup into the pot along with the milk, sugar, and rice and cook everything together.  The raisins will plump as the pudding thickens.


1/2 cup Arborio rice
4 cups milk (both whole and reduced-fat have worked for me)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split (or 1 teaspoon pure extract, added with almond at the end)
1 bay leaf
3/4 teaspoon almond extract


In a large saucepan, place all the ingredients, except the almond extract. Bring it to a gentle boil and then turn it down to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom, for about 30 to 40 minutes. Taste the rice to check for doneness. The rice should be very soft and plump.

Take the pudding off the heat and stir in the extract(s). Pour into dessert bowls. You can serve it immediately or let it chill in the fridge. 

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