I was paging through Ready for Dessert and thinking that I was really was ready to make something for dessert. But what? My criteria was pretty minimal. The ingredients had to be readily available, so no persimmons or passion fruit or anything else the grocery store was unlikely to stock.
It would be a plus if it didn't require a trip to the store. And it would be a double-plus if it would use up a lot of milk. Because I had a lot of milk on hand, and the next delivery would be here before this was gone. So using up milk was good.
I stopped briefly at the chocolate gelato. Oh yeah, that sounded good. But I've got strawberry ice cream in the freezer, so I don't really need a gelato in there too.
Irish Coffee Cupcakes sounded really good. But I didn't have the booze for them.
Then I found the ideal recipe. Rice Pudding. I love rice pudding, but I haven't had it in a long time. But the downfall? Sigh. Raisins. I absolutely abhor raisins. Now, I'm not a picky eater. Give me liver, beets, broccoli or any of the other myriad things that people often don't like, and I'm perfectly happy. There are only two things I refuse to eat. One of them is raisins. I don't think that's unreasonable for an adult to refuse to eat two things, right?
Okay, maybe if it would offend a foreign dignitary at a state dinner, I might find a way to choke down an oatmeal raisin cookie. But there's no way I'm willingly putting raisins into food that I'm cooking and that I'm going to eat.
Now, if someone else in this house would eat the raisins for me, I'd pick them out. But no one's gonna do that, so there's no sense putting them in just to throw them away. So I decided that I'd make the recipe sans raisins. The first problem was that the raisins were cooked in a bit of rum, and the raisins and the rum went into the pudding. So if I left the raisins out, the rum flavor was out, too.
The second problem was that something Lebovitz said in the intro to the Irish Coffee Cupcakes was nagging at me: One of the pitfalls of having a blog is that you leave yourself open to all sorts of questions. The most common are from folks who want to substitute ingredients. I always want to reach through my computer screen, grab hold of their shoulders, and say, "But I worked so hard to develop this recipe. Please make it just as it is."
So yeah, I was feeling hands on my shoulders, and hearing a voice chiding me about the raisins. But I forged ahead anyway, sure that leaving out the raisins was not as big a sin as substituting random ingredients with no regard what it would do to the structure of the finished product.
Creamy Rice Pudding
1/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons Armagnac or rum
5 cups milk (see, I was using up a lot of milk here!)
3/4 cups Arborio riece
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Heat the raisins and Armgnac or rum in a small saucepan, simmering until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside.
In a large saucepan, combine milk, rice, sugar and salt. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean, and add the seeds and bean to the pot. Cook over low heat, stirring as needed until most of the milk has been absorbed by the rice and the mixture resembles a loose risotto, about 45 minutes. You'll need to stir more often as time goes on, and almost constantly at the end, to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan and scorching.
Remove the vanilla bean (you can rinse and dry it if you want to save it for other uses). Stir in the raisins and any remaining soaking liquid.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Okay, here's where I'm going off track again. To be honest, I like my rice pudding cold. I tasted it hot out of the pot, and I tasted it while it was chilling but still warm. It was really good both ways. Perfect texture. Nice flavor, But tomorrow, I'll have some chilled.
Now that I've tasted it, I can see how the rum would have added a little bit of kick to the pudding. Maybe next time, I'll add a teaspoon or so of rum as its finishing cooking.
But although I'm sincere in my apology that I didn't make the recipe exactly as stated, I'm not sorry that I don't have to pick around raisins. Because this is a good rice pudding.
And that gelato is still on my radar. That might be next. With no substitutions. I promise. And then the Irish Coffee Cupcakes will probably make an appearance soon to.