Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wild Rice Pudding

When I was little, I used to be happy when there was leftover rice: Mom would almost always turn it into rice pudding. She'd spoon it into a casserole dish with some raisins (unless Alicia won the day), make a blender custard from the Joy of Cooking, and in the oven it went. Yummy--creamy, chewy, nutmeg-y.
She also sometimes made us custard or rice pudding when we were sick. So when Julia was home sick the other day, it seemed like a good time to finally make this wild rice pudding.

I was rather skeptical about the whole wild rice in pudding thing. Sure, wild rice is quintessentially American and all, but it's chewy and has that kind of grassy taste. Does it really belong in comfort food like rice pudding? I decided to make a half recipe, so as not to waste my precious stash of wild rice.

Julia helped with the food prep and photography. I let her portion out the raisins, and you can see she's overcome her raisin phobia.

The verdict? This would have made an awesome regular rice pudding. The custard is decadently creamy and delicious, but I found the wild rice's texture to be a bit off-putting. This is not to say, however, that these three portions of pudding did not disappear in record time. Julia ate hers while it was still warm. Claire ate mine, even though I protested that she wouldn't like it because it had raisins, in one rapid sitting when she came home from school. And Sami let me have a few bites of his later in the day.
This is not an everyday, oh-I-have-leftover-rice like Mom's standby recipe--it's a lot creamier and fussier, since you cook it before you bake it. But if you're looking for a luxurious custard with some chewy grain in it, look no further.
Here's the recipe. I'm giving you the full 6 portions.

Wild Rice Pudding

Generous 6 T. wild rice
1/4 c. light raisins (I bet you could use dried cherries or cranberries)
2 c. cream
4 egg yolks
1/4 c. sugar
Generous pinch nutmeg
Pinch salt
1/2 t. vanilla
1/4 t. almond extract

Rinse the rice and then cook it in a fairly generous amount of boiling water for about 45 minutes (or follow package directions); drain. The rice should be tender, and probably some of it will be split.
Heat the oven to 325. Get out 6 custard cups and a baking dish large enough to contain them. Divide the rice and raisins evenly among them. In a medium saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat until there are little bubbles around the side and it is starting to steam. While you're heating the cream, in a medium mixing bowl (or maybe a 4-cup Pyrex measure), whisk the egg yolks with the sugar, nutmeg, salt, vanilla, and almond extract. When the cream is hot, pour some of it slowly into the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the time. Then return that to the saucepan and cook, whisking, over fairly low heat until the mixture thickens some--Maida says it should reach 174 degrees. This takes about 10 minutes. Strain through a fine strainer into the custard cups. Ours curdled some but was fine after we'd strained it.
Put the custard cups into the baking dish. Very carefully pour boiling water into the baking dish so that it comes about one inch up the sides of the cups--it may be safer to do this when the baking dish is already in the oven. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, but check after 20. Give the baking dish a little jiggle. If the custards look liquid-y, then need more time. If they look solid or just have a minor jiggle, they're perfect. Very carefully remove the baking pan from the oven and then very carefully remove the custard cups from the hot water. Silicon potholders are great here because the cloth kind can soak up hot water--ouch! Maida recommends that you cool these to room temperature and then chill for a few hours. I tried Julia's warm pudding and Sami's cold pudding and I liked both. Enjoy these in good health.

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