WARNING: The specific use of this recipe in the manner described in this blog should be reserved for emergency situations only, including but not limited to:
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1. Your seven-year-old child strategically hides a tomato in a piece of furniture you intended to sell, leaving behind stringy goo and a stench so powerful it could only be removed by a potent cleaner that some websites claim causes infertility, which might not be such a bad thing since perhaps you have given the world all the fruit vagrants it needs.
2. You endure an incident at work so enraging that you wake up three nights in a row at 2 AM and punch a large magenta bear so violently that its stuffing shreds. You then stare at aggrieved aforementioned child and say, “I really don’t know what happened there but you know the spiders in this town are pretty aggressive. Would you like some ice cream before dinner?”
3. Your spouse calls you from your new home 2,955 miles away, a house you have seen once for exactly seven minutes and says, “All the paint colors you picked are too dark. What should I do about it?”
Normally after a week like that, I like my dinner a little more liquid (equal parts elderflower liqueur and Champagne with a dash of brandy, thanks for asking). But rage needs comfort food. This means rice pudding. For dinner.
I originally turned to Sonia's Rice Pudding because I was looking for ways to cook down the stuff in my pantry before I move (more on that strategy next week). I have lots of rice, and, somewhat inexplicably, cans of sweetened condensed milk.
I confess the beautiful and talented mrslarkin stumped me a little with some of the directions. I wasn’t sure, for instance, what size cans of evaporated and condensed milk should be used, whether or not I should continue to leave the lid on my pot as my rice steeped, or how long the whole thing should cook. Ten minutes? Ten hours? I don’t think I have ever actually made stove top rice confections.
I instantly pinged a colleague and friend who is a rice pudding aficionado, who for some weird reason thought it was far more important to meet a crushing editorial deadline concerning gay marriage than advise me on my inability to read a recipe. “Just put some cardamom in and forget it, there is no way to mess up rice pudding,” he wrote back. Okay so he used a few profanities. But this is a family blog!
I then realized that what mrslarkin was doing here was being overly scrupulous in basically describing how to make rice, with sweet stuff poured on top.
First, you are going to want a nice large saucepan. I got the whole show going with jasmine rice, because I had a lot of it, and was immediately rewarded with a lovely soft smell bubbling under the steamy lid. Under that were hints of cinnamon, present but fleeting, like one of those sneaky cats that hides behind the kitchen door.
Once it got boiling, I turned my heat down and waited patiently for it to absorb -- go rice go! -– but was careful not to let it get gummy, as that can happen quickly. Next it was time for the milks. I had a 12-ounce can of evaporated milk and two 14-ounces cans of the condensed; I started with just one and found it plenty. More I think would make the dish overly-sweet, and a bit milk-logged.
I sat in my dark kitchen (I wasn’t trying to be romantic or anything; all the light bulbs have burned out and I don’t feel like buying new ones), slowly licking my creation off the back of a wooden spoon. I was suddenly hit with something I believe emotionally healthy adults refer to as perspective.
I had a bad week. Someone else’s was worse. I have two healthy children to hide fruits and vegetables from me. I have a job, whatever its flaws, which helps pay for the soon-to-be-disgracefully painted house. Unlike 98 percent of Los Angeles, I also have rice pudding for dinner.
2 cups short-grain rice (same used for Sushi -- or jasmine works)
7 cups water
3 or 4 sticks of cinnamon, not very small
One lime peel
Pinch of salt
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
2 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup sugar
1. Place the rice in the water with the cinnamon sticks, lime peel (cut the lime peel in such a way that it falls apart in pieces), a pinch of salt and let it cook. At first, the flame should be medium and when it’s really boiling lower the flame, but not extremely low. It cooks covered, but when it begins to boil it rises and the flame should be lowered so that it does not overflow, but let it thicken.
2. When the rice is soft and almost dry, but without waiting until it is completely dry, you add the evaporated milk, the condensed milk and the ½ cup of sugar. If you think it is not sufficiently sweet, add some more sugar. Mix with wooden spoon a few times and leave it a few minutes. You want it to be wet but not watery.
3. When you place the mixture on the serving bowl or deep serving dish, sprinkle generously with powder cinnamon.
4. Let it cool or refrigerate for later use, and enjoy!
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, is the Los Angeles Bureau Chief for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).