To read the name of this recipe you'd think it was all about the rice...it's not. This dish is all about vanilla and cream -- the rice is just there to act as an efficient delivery mechanism for these two stars. I was never a fan of rice pudding as a kid, but fell in love with the dish while living in France, where they take it quite seriously. This is one of those culinary indulgences that should probably warrant its own question at the time of your annual physical: Smoke? "No." Drink? "Why yes, I'd love one, thanks." Riz Au Lait? "I eat it only once a year, I promise." (Fingers cleverly crossed behind my back, of course)
The dish is best served warm from the pot, but if your cooking plans don't allow for that and you end up refrigerating the pudding before eating it, I've included an optional step that calls for folding in a lightly sweetened, vanilla Chantilly just before serving. As riz au lait tightens considerably when chilled, this step of adding the whipped cream helps to lighten the texture and improve the mouth feel of the treat. Enjoy. —Oui, Chef
Test Kitchen Notes
In Victorian literature – Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters, and so on – rice pudding is often held in contempt; a lowly, overly familiar food served to small children, usually in the company of boiled mutton. Oui, Chef’s classic Riz au Lait is the antithesis of such fare. It's a creamy, comforting concoction that is simply splendid, as well as splendidly simple. The silkiness from the chubby, starchy grains of Arborio rice and the delicate flavor from the flecks of vanilla bean send this dessert right over the top, both eaten straight from the stove and a day later. The vanilla-scented whipped cream? We thought it wasn’t necessary, but you really can’t have too much of a good thing, can you? —wssmom
- Serves 6-8
short grain rice such as Arborio
1 2/3 cups
heavy cream, divided
vanilla beans, halved, split lengthwise and scraped of their seeds
super-fine sugar (optional)
vanilla paste (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 vanilla extract), to soft peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream into the pudding before serving.