"Rice pudding should be incredibly easy to make," I said, unpacking the boil-in-bag rice. "You just boil it in the water for a few minutes and dump in the ingredients, right?
Ok, so my experiment with rice pudding wasn't quite that bad. But it's true that until this week, I'd never actually made rice that didn't come from a box with the word "Minute" somewhere on it.
When the now defunct Miami Rice Pudding Co. opened in Phoenix back in 2008, I swore it would be the next big thing. Screw cupcakes -- flavored sweetened rice is where is at! Of course, I also thought that sushi, truffles and duck fat fries would never catch on with mainstream diners.
Inspired by kheer, which remains popular at ethnic restaurants, I decided to try my hand at made-from scratch rice pudding based on Patrick7's recipe on Allrecipes.com. Here's how it goes:
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 cup Basmati rice
1/4 cup raisins
More ingredients, and how it comes out like rawhide, after the jump...
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon rose water (optional)
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup chopped pistachio nuts
The Virgin's DeStructions:
1. Combine coconut milk, regular milk (I used 2%) and sugar in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
2. Add basmati rice and simmer over low heat until mixture thickens and rice is tender. According to Patrick7, that's about 20 minutes. According to The Virgin, the rice has the texture of a doggie chew toy after twenty minutes and should never be consumed.
Being new to cooking, I thought coconut milk, sugar and milk combined to form some sort of magical potion that would cook rice whose package specifies a 40-minute cooking time twice as fast. I realize now that's a fantasy only possible in the sped-up world of pre-taped cooking shows.
2. Try the rice again after five more minutes and practically break a tooth.
3. Sample the rice after ten more minutes and get pissed off when it still isn't done. Curse a little (in Hindi if you are feeling particularly overachieving).
4. Stare at the pot for ten to fifteen more minutes and finally call it done regardless of what it looks like. You're not getting any younger, you know.
5. If you're not asleep by this time and haven't burnt the rice while watching reruns of Grey's Anatomy, stir in raisins and cardamom (and rose water, if applicable -- though personally, I think it makes the pudding taste like my grandmother's perfume) and continue cooking for several minutes. [Cook's Note: Cardamom costs a fortune, so I was forced to use the all-American combo of cinnamon and allspice.]
6. Scoop into bowls and garnish with nuts.
Remember, this isn't the thick, goopy, tapioca-like stuff you find in grocery store refrigerator cases. Indian rice pudding is meant to be saucy. In the end, I cooked the pudding just over an hour, giving the basmati time to soften to al dente.
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It tasted very similar to the desserts at my favorite local Indian restaurant, which is a good sign. The pudding was subtly sweet and light, with a strong coconut flavor and a hint of spice. Raisins and nuts added much needed textural contrast and saltiness for a well-balanced dessert. It was definitely worth the effort to make, though next time I'll know to start the Grey's Anatomy mini-marathon earlier.