Waaaaaaaaay back in the day when the Booze Hound and I were young, reckless, and probably said we didn’t want kids (HA! I held a newborn the other day and I swear I heard my ovaries say ‘MOREBABIESMOREBABIESMOREBABIES!’), we had to attend those marriage prep classes at Our Lady of Victory in State College, PA, before we said ‘I do’ to a life filled with awesome things like Porchetta, and challenges like ice cream that never firms up.
We were way too busy making eyes at each other to pay attention to most of what was said (and we’re still married, point US), but one thing does stick out in our minds from that whole weekend: the concept of your ‘family of origin.’ The whole shpeel was about how you each bring certain traditions/habits/ideas to the marriage from your ‘family of origin’ (aka the family you grew up with), and you need to respect that your family of origin did things differently than that of your spouse, and you need to be open to making adjustments for your spouse. We were asked to think of adjustments our parents had to make when they got married, and that totally made me think of rice pudding.
Totally not kidding.
Both my mom and stepdad grew up in tightly-knit, loving families (plus) with very similar values (plus)… and with very different ways of making rice pudding (MINUS MINUS MINUS!!). They got married when they were right around 40, which is old enough that it’s harder to change your ways, but also old enough that you know what really matters in life and you don’t sweat the small stuff.
Lots of stuff wasn’t sweated. Rice pudding was NOT one of those things.
I distinctly remember that my mom grew up eating rice pudding made with cooked rice, while my stepdad’s mom made it with uncooked rice. There was the battle of raisins v. no raisins. Baked or stovetop. The one who liked it hot looked at the one who liked it cold like s/he was on drugs. I can’t remember who liked it which way because I have blocked it out, along with the entire era I thought it was cool to wear soccer shoes when I was no more a soccer player than I was a tight rope walker.
Because of this massive family conflict, I grew up- and I hate to admit this, especially to the entire internet- preferring Kozy Shack rice pudding. It was really creamy, really thick, and really non-committal. I probably haven’t had it since those poser-soccer-player days (when being a swimmer just wasn’t cool enough) because I’ve made it my mission in life to not buy things that I can make from scratch. I can make rice pudding from scratch- but it comes with emotional trauma from my family of origin. So I’ve gone without. And I’ve been very, very sad.
Three factors contributed to my recent decision to re-awaken my love for rice pudding. 1: I saw it in Fine Cooking and couldn’t get it out of my head. 2. I am married to someone who did not grow up eating rice pudding and therefore has no burning opinion about how I should make it. 3. One of the very, very cool things about being an adult is that you can make your own decisions. You can choose how short your skirts are, how many times you pierce your belly-button, and how you are going to make your rice pudding. Being a grown-up definitely has its perks. Paying bills is not one of them, but the rice pudding thing makes up for that.
I could say that I wanted to make a creamy rice pudding because that has always been one of my deepest, darkest desires, but let’s face it- I wanted to make something that tasted like Kozy Shack, aka my rice pudding safe zone. Did I succeed? YES!!!
This rice pudding is everything I wanted it to be!!! Über-creamy because I made it on the stovetop with raw rice. Eaten hot on a cold morning. No raisins, just a sprinkle of cinnamon and an entire vanilla bean’s worth of seeds to give it that sweet, silky aroma and flavor of vanilla. My own personal heaven.
I frequently refer to things as ‘the best…’ or ‘the ultimate…’ but not this time because if growing up in my family of origin taught me anything, it’s that the way you love rice pudding is a very, very personal thing. If you love rich, creamy, vanilla-scented rice pudding you scoop in your bowl with a spoon that makes your eyes roll back in your head in ecstasy, look no further- you are about to be in heaven. If you like the rice pudding you bake and then can cut into squares, keep right on goin’, partner. You’re still good people, but we like different things, and that’s ok.
I’m sure both my mom and my stepdad think I like rice pudding the way s/he likes rice pudding. The good news? They’ll still love me because they’re awesome. The bad news? I am probably getting nothing for Christmas. Or maybe coal as a statement present. It’s ok, I can take it. I’ll just fake-cry into my creamy bowl of perfection. 🙂
- 4 cups whole milk
- ½ cup white rice, such as long grain, basmati, jasmine, or arborio
- 7 Tbs sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
- 2 large egg yolks
- In a 4-quart saucepan, combine 4 cups of the milk with the rice and sugar. With a paring knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and add them to the pan. Add the scraped vanilla bean and the cinnamon stick and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat as necessary to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring frequently but gently, until the rice is completely tender, about 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Whisk in about 1 cup of the hot rice mixture. Pour the egg mixture back into the pan, and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended. Put the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, just until the mixture begins to boil, about 2 minutes. Remove rice pudding from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean. Spoon the warm pudding into bowls and serve immediately.