Now that you've polished off the last of the pies, cakes and crumbles left over from your Thanksgiving feast, it's time to replenish your dessert larder with a new treat. God forbid you go more than a day or two without a holiday worthy sweet in your house this time of year….what would the neighbors say?
You might think from the name of this recipe (Riz Au Lait is French for rice with milk) that it's all about the rice….it's not. This dish is all about vanilla and cream, the rice acts only as a mechanism to deliver these two stars to your taste buds and to provide a little texture. This is not the rice pudding of your youth, the cold, gummy cup of misery that the lunch ladies served up on occasion. That dish was cold rice soaked in low-fat milk and sugar, this one by contrast delivers plump grains of short rice luxuriating in a bath of warm, sweetened cream and vanilla. You follow?
It's snowy whiteness is so enticing that I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this is the dish that Mrs. Claus uses to fatten Santa for his long, cold journey on Christmas Eve. Yeah, this dessert is sinfully rich and should therefor be served is appropriately small portions (unless of course you're looking to Santa-size yourself). In fact, it's so rich that it's one of those dishes that warrants a mention on the Q & A form presented at your annual physical.
Drink?….."Why, yes I'd love one, thanks."
Drugs?….."Are you a cop?"
Riz Au Lait?….. "I swear I only eat it once a year." (fingers cleverly crossed behind my back when answering this one, of course)
I was never a fan of rice pudding as a kid, but came to love the dish while living in France where they take it quite seriously. It is best served warm from the pot, but if your cooking plans don't allow for this and you need to save it for serving later, I've included an optional step of folding vanilla-scented chantilly into the mix to loosen and refresh it. Riz Au Lait tightens quite a bit when chilled, and the addition of whipped cream just before serving greatly improves the texture and mouth feel of this treat.
Cheers – Steve
- 1/2 cup short grain rice such as Arborio or Carnaroli
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 2/3 cup heavy cream, divided
- 2 vanilla beans, halved, split lengthwise and scraped of their seeds
- 1 teaspoon super fine sugar (optional)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract (optional)
- Place the rice in a medium saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Stir the rice a few times to knock any starch loose, then pour the rice through a strainer, run under warm water to rinse, and place back in the pan. Add 1 cup of the cream, the 2 cups of milk and the vanilla seeds and pods. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the 1/4 cup sugar, stir and cook for an additional 10 minutes. remove the vanilla pods before serving.
- If serving immediately, pull from the heat, spoon into small cups or bowls and enjoy. If not serving right away, pour into a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool for a half hour or so before placing in the fridge to chill.
- If you've chilled the pudding before serving and would like to take the optional step of incorporating the vanilla scented chantilly, remove it from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. When the pudding is ready, whip the additional 2/3 cup cream with 1 teaspoon superfine sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or extract), to soft peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream into the pudding before serving.