Friday, October 12, 2007

Baked Rice Pudding

I feel a story coming on, so if you're just here looking for the "how-to" go ahead and scroll down.
I first discovered rice pudding in high school. My friend B's mother served the most wonderful rice pudding, on a fairly regular basis. For years, I just assumed she made it, and it's only now as I think about it that I realise she couldn't possibly have made it herself.
B's mother couldn't cook-she could barely make a cup of coffee. Generic coffee. You think I'm kidding? Remember in the 70's when grocery chains started offering products in black and white packaging with stenciled letters telling you in the simplest way what it was. The can of "COFFEE" sat on the kitchen counter as more of a threat than an invitation. Sure, this was long before anyone was drinking good coffee (except for me, because our Hungarian neighbour bought me a Melita drip cup and some expensive coffee for a birthday present-when I was eight). That said, the generic coffee was something I can only describe as what I'd imagine sewer water to taste like.
Thinking back, about the only thing I remember eating at their house (and I ate there quite a bit) were frozen burritos, and of course the rice pudding. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that the pudding came from Dominick's. Sure, she'd warm it up and pour a bit of cream over it, but that's hardly cooking.
B's mom was politically active in their village and as a leader in the League of Women Voters, had managed to get on the mayor's bad side. The mayor was well-known to be an unsavoury fellow and eventually was driven from office many years later by some sort of corruption scandal. Anyway, B's mom finds herself on the mayor's shit list and was seriously concerned for her safety. I remember sitting at their kitchen counter drinking (or trying to drink) a cup of the generic coffee and reassure her that he was petty, but not stupid.
"I'm going to end up in the trunk of the car." she kept insisting despite our reassurances that she would not. Finally, B's boyfriend insisted we all step outside to the driveway, which we did.
Pointing to the car, he announced with assured authority (or all the authority a seventeen year old can pull-off)
"Mayor ____ isn't going to have you in the trunk of this car."
Incredulous, and getting annoyed at being dragged outside she indulged him by asking how he was so certain of that.
B's boyfriend (who as I recall walked around shirtless year round and had a lovely long, blonde, Robert Plant-type perm) pointed to the car again.
"Those maffiosos aren't too bright, but they're not dumb enough to dump a body in a hatchback."
To make rice pudding of the type my friend's mom probably bought at the grocer, you will need:
2 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place a pan with hot water in the oven (it should measure halfway up the side of the mould).
In a pan, scald the milk. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Slowly whisk the milk into the eggs until well combined. Add the raisins and vanilla. Add the rice. Pour into a well greased 1 1/2 quart souffle dish or casserole. Bake 1 hour and fifteen minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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