Rice pudding is something my mother loves. Although she never made it from scratch, I have always associated rice pudding with her. My mother did not teach me how to make this classic comfort food, ironically I learned how to make it at my first job out of culinary school. Although hired as a saucier, I was the only female in the kitchen and expected to do sweets and pastry on the side. If you’ve read the famous book Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, you are already well versed in the gender inequalities that exist within kitchens. And even all these years later, when I say I’m a trained chef, most people assume that means pasty.
Kitchen politics aside, it was during my time as a saucier that I took over making rice pudding, a signature dessert, of the clubs. I made A LOT of rice pudding working there, and as a result, I established a rather intense love-hate relationship with it. I perfected my recipe, but basically abstained from eating it for many years thereafter.
This recipe really a classic version, minus the raisins (a requirement of the clubs), which I’ve never been a fan of. This rice pudding is rich, creamy and loaded with vanilla flavor. My trick to making this classic dish is, I don’t use fancy rice, believe it or not, I always use Uncle Bens original. And I use a combination of milk and heavy cream, which I think is critical for that velvety feel rice pudding should have. I serve mine chilled, never warm, with a bit more heavy cream swirled in and a light dusting of ground cinnamon on top. It’s decadent, pleasing (yes, I can eat it again) and will forever remind me of my mom.
Classic Vanilla Rice Pudding
- 1 1/2 cup Uncle Bens rice
- 3 1/2 cups milk
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon ground Bourbon vanilla beans or 2 whole vanilla beans, split lengthwise beans scraped
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 egg yolks
- 3/4-1 cup sugar (depending on your sweetened preference)
- Step 1 In a medium stockpot add the rice, milk, heavy cream, ground vanilla beans (or if using vanilla pods and beans) and vanilla extract. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently so the rice does not stir until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Note: the mixture should still be on the soupy looking. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Step 2 In a large mixing bowl add the egg yolks and sugar. Using a whisk, beat the mixture until it is a pale yellow color.
- Step 3 Using a ladle, slowly mix in one ladle of the rice-milk mixture into the eggs , mixing well to incorporate. Do not add too much too fast or you will “cook” the egg yolks. Add a second ladle of the rice-milk mixture and stir to combine.
- Step 4 Now that you have tempered the yolk properly, you can add the rest of the rice-milk mixture. Mix well. Pour the mixture back into the stockpot, place over low heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring continuously, over low heat, until the mixture has thickened, about 8-10 minutes. The mixture should coat the back of a spoon nicely when ready. Remove from the heat and pour the pudding into a medium size glass mixing bowl. Discard the vanilla pods if using.
- Step 5 Using a rubber spatula, stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Place a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper directly on the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming on top. Allow too cool on the counter for 1 hour. Once cool enough, cover the top tightly with a second piece of plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator and allow to cool completely, at least 2 hours.
- Step 6 To serve, scoop into serving dishes and top with ground cinnamon. If you prefer your pudding to be slightly creamier like I do, stir in a bit more heavy cream right before serving.