Rice pudding is not something I make on a regular basis. Adding to the things you did not know about me, I have carbs/desserts food quirks: I don't know why I can easily justify the carbs of a cake but yet have a difficult time justifying carbs like bread or rice puddings for dessert...I guess it's got to do with the visiualisation of the grain/sin at hand. I know, I know..I have probably passed a lot of wonderful recipes that way but I am changing...
I usually think about desserts like rice pudding as the ultimate cold weather food, the kind awaiting you after a long walk in the snow or a breezy stroll on a northern seashore. Well, I live in a warm region of the US and the numbers of cold days we have had so far is still in the single digits, not very enticing for long braised dishes, stews and warm puddings. We are grilling, in our shorts and sandals and enjoying massive amount of ice cream, tarts and cakes. I am not really complaining, but a little cold makes you appreciate a warm evening by the fire, and would give me the desire to turn the oven on. For my fellow bloggers up north: I am not complaining....!
If you have read this so far, I have just given you what would be perfectly good reason for me not to make Rice Pudding... so why oh why did I make it? Well, a couple of days ago I called my mom and we started talking about the few flecks of snow they had just had during the night, how my grandfather was feeling the cold weather in his arthritic knees, how much he was missing my grandmother and of course how much she dislikes northern weather being from Montelimar, but as long as there was sunshine she was ok. From that moment on and until we hung up, I could feel my heart fill up with nostalgia, the faint aroma of my grandmother's rice pudding drifting through my kitchen and when I closed my eyes I could taste the soft vanilla sugar each spoonfull would leave on my mouth. Miles away from home and from the people I hold dear and miss everyday, I had found myself in their space, in their present thanks to another food memory, and if you knew my grandmother, it would not surprise you a bit.
While I was home this past Christmas, I asked my grandfather if I could look through her boxes of recipes. Two large biscuits (cookies) tins that she had filled over the years with various magazine clipped recipes, many handwritten ones for family favorites or from friends. There were many duplicates, which made us laugh aplenty...how many rabbit terrines recipes does one woman need? We found 5, all the same.... I was looking for a few specific ones: her apple tart, clafoutis, chocolate and lemon cakes, and her rice pudding. I am pretty sure I am the only one who remembers it. See, it was not real dessert...it was the magical dessert she would make us when we were sick. Hers was soupy if you were really bad, sweeter if you were on the mend. Me, I liked being in the middle, especially because she would add some fruits to it and she would never forget to put a whole vanilla bean in it.
If you have read my last post, you know that I am known as the "Queen of sticky rice". I don't cook fluffy grain, I always end up with mush, no matter what tutorial or chef I follow. I think I gave Chef Roland a few grey hair back at the restaurant! But it's grandma's "Riz au Lait" we are talking about! You can imagine it took me less than 30 seconds to put the saucepan on, the vanilla out and the Nostalgia in! Here is her recipe, no specific source given which was rare for her, so I am guessing it was a recipe that evolved with time and she finally came to a combination if ingredient that she liked and worked for her.
Mamie Paulette's Riz Au Lait (Rice Pudding):
3 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
2 oz arborio rice
1 vanilla bean
1 oz. butter
In a heavy saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, vanilla bean split in half, and the rice. Cook over low heat until all the milk is absorbed and the rice is nice and tender. Take the pan off the heat, remove the vanilla bean, and whisk in the butter. Pour into ramequins and serve warm or refrigerate if you have to wait to eat it...but that would be a shame!
Serve with fruits or plain drizzled with some honey.
I never realized how a simple bowl of this rice pudding would bring on such a complex feeling called Nostalgia: bitter-sweet memories that make you the person you are today an yet so difficult to visit.
I am entering this recipe in Ellie's event "Nostalgia" for March. Head over to her blog for more details and scrumptious recipes written with care and witt.