The idea for this recipe comes from a 19th century dessert called Huntington pudding, which has a lemony rice pudding base, thickened with egg yolks, and a lemon meringue cap. I love how the airy meringue lightens the dense rice pudding as you eat it. So with this old-fashioned dessert in mind, I decided to maintain a similar design but change the flavors and textures. I made an almond-flavored rice pudding base, because I love almond and lemon together, and kept the base loose with lots of milk. And I topped this with a lemony meringue, which, after a little toasting in the oven, is a real showstopper. If you don't eat this pudding right away, it's also good cold, but don't let it sit in the fridge for more than a day or two or the meringue gets weird. —Amanda Hesser
Combine the rice, milk, cinnamon, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rice is just tender (but not at all mushy), about 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the almond extract and lemon zest. Pour into an 8 x 8 inch baking dish.
Using a mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the sugar and whisk until the whites form firm peaks. Sprinkle in the lemon juice a little at a time and continue beating until the peaks are firm and glossy.
Heat the broiler. Spread the meringue on top of the rice pudding, using a spatula to nudge it to the edge of the baking dish. Place under the broiler to toast the meringue, about 1 minute. Don't take your eyes off of it -- it burns quickly!
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.