Traditional Rice Pudding
Given rice’s importance as a Southern crop, rice pudding has a long legacy. It is found in many English as well as antebellum cookbooks, including all manner of ingredients from cinnamon and raisins to cardamom, lemon rind and other flavorings. Traditionally, it was made with the popular rice of the time, short- or medium-grain rice. Now, just about any rice will do, although, of course, if you can get Carolina Gold, an heirloom rice, by all means do. Long-grain rice varieties — basmati, popcorn, jasmine and some others — have unique flavors and are worth experimenting with.
The pudding also may be made from raw rice or cooked rice of any size, varying the liquid and cooking time as needed. It is particularly helpful as a way to use leftover rice and is oh, so soothing to those suffering from a cold, whether served hot or cold. My husband, Jack Bass, grew up eating rice with milk and raisins for breakfast. A richer pudding requires the addition of eggs.
2 cups cooked rice
3 to 5 cups whole milk or half-and-half, divided
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean, split (optional); or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Ground cinnamon, optional
Serve with butterscotch sauce
Add 1/4 to 1/3 tablespoon ground cinnamon and 1/2 cup currants or raisins with the rice.
Add the grated rind of 1 orange, and/or 1 lemon and/ or 1 lime, no white attached, to the rice, sugar, milk, and salt at the initial cooking process.
Use whipping cream in place of the cooking milk for sheer decadence.
Add the cooked rice to 31/2 to 4 cups of milk in a heavy pan, then stir in the sugar and salt. Add the vanilla bean if using. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a slow simmer, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring frequently down to the bottom of the pan.
When the rice begins to “blurp,” take special care to stir until rice is meltingly tender and a bit looser than cooked oatmeal or grits, about 5 minutes more. Reduce heat if necessary. If the pudding is solid rather than smooth and velvety, add enough of the remaining milk or half-and-half to moisten.
Remove from the heat and discard the vanilla bean. If not using the vanilla bean, stir in the vanilla extract at this point. Taste and adjust seasoning, feeling free to add more salt and sugar as desired. Spoon into a large bowl or individual serving dishes and serve warm, at room temperature, or cold. If not serving right away, lightly push plastic wrap directly on top to prevent the pudding from forming a skin. When ready to serve, top with a dash of cinnamon if desired. This will last up to 1 week refrigerated.
Tip: Stirring is important, as is a heavy pan that is large enough to prevent any boiling over should your attention stray. If the bottom of the pan feels like the rice is stuck to the bottom, carefully remove some of what is sticking to see if it is burned. If it is burned, stop stirring and pour the pudding into a clean pan, avoiding scraping any of the burned part into the pot.
Nathalie Dupree is the author of 13 cookbooks, most recently “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.” She lives in Charleston and may be reached through Nathaliedupree.com.