Arborio Rice Pudding

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My kids love rice pudding. It all started at the beach when they were little. A deli by our place had a carton of rice pudding in the case and I gave in to my daughter’s and son’s pleas for pudding. It didn’t take them long to polish off the container, and ever after going to the deli meant coming home with a carton of rice pudding.

Who could blame them? Just as risotto is savory comfort food rice pudding is sweet comfort. The subtle hint of vanilla, the heady sweetness of milk, the tender bite of the arborio rice and, in my version, the touch of citrus zest make for one delicious pudding. And once you have the method for making risotto this dish becomes just as easy to make.

I tried a couple different recipes using arborio rice. The first was too much liquid, the second attempt too dry. I messed with both recipes and came up with my own version which suits us perfectly. I like to use real vanilla bean in this recipe instead of pure vanilla extract. It has a more subtle flavor. But you could definitely substitute 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract.

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Makes 6 to 8 servings.

1 tbs butter

1 cup arborio rice

1 quart (4 cups) milk (anything but fat free – I use 1 percent low fat organic)

1/2 cup heavy cream

2/3 cup sugar

1 vanilla pod and beans (cut through the pod length wise and scrape out the beans with the tip of the knife).

zest of an orange

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp kosher salt

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Combine the milk, cream, vanilla pod and seeds, sugar, salt and zest in a pot over medium low heat and keep warm, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat until frothy. Add the rice and toss to coat. Toast the rice about 3 minutes.

Add 1 cup of the liquid, stir the rice occasionally until the liquid reduces. Add another cup and repeat with the remaining liquid. This process will take about 20 to 25 minutes. The rice should be tender. Once you add the last of the liquid, remove the pudding from the heat and give it a good stir. This helps the starch thicken the pudding.

Let it rest to cool, then cover with plastic wrap, letting the wrap touch the top of the pudding to prevent a crust from forming, and refrigerate to cool completely.

This is yummy right away but even better the next day! Spoon into a bowl and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

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