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Nostalgia & Riz Au Lait

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):

Serves 4

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.

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MyKitchenInHalfCups March 5, 2007 um 12:10 pm

That looks like one of the best ever bowls of rice pudding I’ve ever seen.
What a joy to have gone through your Grandmother recipe box.
I have some slips of paper that my mom had writen recipes on and I keep one on my desk just as a connect.

Anonymous March 5, 2007 um 1:09 pm

This looks like the ultimate comfort food. I love it!

Patricia Scarpin March 5, 2007 um 1:17 pm

Helene, this post is fantastic!

A good friend of mine had a similar event a while ago for blogs written in Portuguese and my entry was Rice pudding, too – something I didn’t know people ate cold until I was a teenager. lol

My mom used to make rice pudding all the time for me and I’d always eat it hot, it was so delicious!

Cheryl March 5, 2007 um 1:58 pm

OH rice pudding. My father is going to kiss you for this. He loves rice pudding so much.

I will have to try your grandmother’s recipe for him for his birthday. Looks great.

Anonymous March 5, 2007 um 2:01 pm

My dad loves rice pudding but I’ve never had it. What a treat to spring this recipe on him one day – great post!

Brilynn March 5, 2007 um 3:04 pm

Rice pudding isn’t nostalgic for me, but reading your description makes me want some!

Jenny March 5, 2007 um 3:16 pm

I’ve raided my grandmother’s recipe book and found the same kind of duplicates!
The pudding looks divine!

Anonymous March 5, 2007 um 6:48 pm

What a treasure of a recipe… this looks sooo good!

Anonymous March 5, 2007 um 6:54 pm

Such a beautiful post Helene, my grandma used to make a mean rice pudding as well, brings back fond memories.

Alicia March 5, 2007 um 7:46 pm

Mmm… can I have some? Did you save me any? Darn…

I can’t say I’ve ever made rice pudding – rice, other than instant, is not my friend.

Happy Monday Helene!
(Your chocolate cake recipe is up, by the way.)

Patricia Scarpin March 5, 2007 um 7:53 pm


Please forgive me for using this space, but I’d love to send you an email – would you please be so kind to send me one at patricia.scarpin [at] so I can reply?

Thank you!

Anonymous March 6, 2007 um 2:40 am

Oh, je me replonge dans mon enfance aussi. J’adore cela! Il a l’air si bon.

Freya March 6, 2007 um 12:17 pm

Curious, my husband asked for Rice Pudding last night but seeing as we were having Kedgeree I pointed out that you can’t have rice for main and dessert (although, on reflection, I’d give it a go!).

Connie March 6, 2007 um 12:47 pm

so many feelings over such a small and simple recipe! it has been rice pudding weather recently though…

Lis March 6, 2007 um 6:23 pm

I think that’s the prettiest rice pudding I’ve ever seen. =)

Anonymous March 6, 2007 um 7:24 pm

Oh Helen, I haven’t had rice pudding in such a long time… yours looks absolutely luscious! Finding old family recipes are truly treasures to be kept!

Peabody March 6, 2007 um 11:25 pm

It’s always amazing to me how many memories are tied with the smell and taste of food. What a touching post.

Anonymous March 11, 2007 um 6:18 am

This is a fantastic dish, and such a great post 🙂 Thank you so much for taking part xox

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