Thursday, November 18, 2010

RIZ AU LAIT : The Frenchman's Rice Pudding

If you carry your childhood with you, you never grow older.
- Tom Stoppard


Some people think of childhoods long past, cozy corners in some nursery or propped up at a kitchen table in some small town far away with a nanny or grandma or mom hovering not very far away. Some people think of grade school lunches, women in hairnets and metal trays, ladlefuls plopped heavily into sections, or little plastic containers pulled hungrily out of crisp paper bags and popped open, spoon dipping greedily into soft, warm creaminess, spoons licked, fingers licked, sticky and sweet. And some even think of candlelight and elegant restaurants, warm and exotic vanilla and rich, thick, luxurious cream, satiny smooth, old family favorites making their reappearance, modern, updated classics a kiss of nostalgia.

And then there are those who think of punishment, the “it’s good for you” reproach from some stern adult standing tall and large one step back, brows furrowed. Big bowls clunked down on the table, the grind of chair legs across wooden floors as the seat is pushed up to the edge, the spoon within easy reach of small pegs of arms. A weighty snack meant to fill on the cheap, day after day, adding a layer of winter fat, bulking up small bodies against the cold, protecting against whatever ails them.


"When they didn't give him boiled mutton, they gave him rice pudding, pretending it was a treat. And saved the butcher."
- Charles Dickens from The Schoolboy’s Story, 1853

I was raised in a grab-as-you-like home. From the moment we could reach the refrigerator door handle or peer over the edge of the kitchen counter, we were on our own as far as breakfast, lunch and snack were concerned. Breakfast was a quick bowl of cereal doused with milk or a Poptart or two, cinnamon toast prepared not by loving mom hands but by tiny fingers spreading butter on warm toast then dusting the top with jarred cinnamon-sugar. Lunch was eaten whenever we were hungry, sandwiches made, salads tossed or cans opened and heated on the stove, no parental supervision in sight. And snacks were pretty much a free-for-all: counters lined with boxes of cookies, barrels of pretzels or chips and cakes made by dad, ours for the grabbing whenever we were hungry. The freezer was a showcase for popsicles, fudgsicles, ice cream and ice cream sandwiches and the refrigerator overflowed with dad’s creations: gorgeous, exotic fruit compote, pastry puffs stuffed with creams and supermarket purchases of the Space Age variety, Jello and puddings, Koolaid and jarred chocolate sauces. My dad loved pudding, made box after box in every glorious color and flavor and we were raised on it like kittens on milk. Creamy and smooth, it was truly a thing of comfort, a symbol of home.

Thousands of miles away, my future husband grew up in a much more traditional setting, hot lunches simmered long hours on the stove, blanquette or daube, poule au pot or poulet frîtes, shared by the family as papa closed the shop and climbed the stairs for his daily two-hour respite. Snacks were limited and almost always homemade. And he grew up on Riz au Lait, the Frenchman’s version of Rice Pudding, creamy, sweet, warm and filling. Each baby was bottle fed with bouillie, cereal-thickened milk, each toddler, as they became toddlers, were served up big, steaming bowls of Riz au Lait. An old-fashioned woman, ma belle-mère, my Mother-in-Law believed in plumping up her children with fat-and sugar-rich snacks and that meant puddings made with either rice or tiny elbow macaroni long-simmered in whole milk and sprinkled with sugar. They were meant to fill up the growing children, to insulate them against the cold and damp of winter or to simply add on the pounds, an old-fashioned way to help them grow faster and protect their bodies against whatever could ail them.


My husband has been long begging me to make him Riz au Lait. With each cake I pull out of the oven or each glass of Panna Cotta I push into the refrigerator, he once again requests Riz au Lait, sighing heavily in disappointment as I simply do not offer him this token of womanly love. This is a dish that simply is not in my culture; I never ate this when I was a child. And although I do love it, it just never crosses my mind as something I could or should make at home. And he continues to ask for it and I continue to place cake after cake, cookies and ice cream on the table in front of him. Until last week. I was in the mood to bake and had selected a recipe. I opened up the refrigerator and to my utter shock and horror I saw that * gulp * I was out of eggs! Me? Out of eggs? Impossible! Oh, cruel fate dashing my hopes to the ground! On top of that, it was a national holiday and I knew that every single store was closed, so no eggs were to be had! And as the truth hit me squarely between the eyes, as I began to wail and moan and tear at my hair in despair, husband ran into the kitchen, glee shining in his eyes and the excitement of a child bubbling up and overflowing, and he sang “Riz au Lait! Riz au Lait is the answer! You can make it for me! There are no eggs in Riz au Lait!

And so I did. And as I measured and stirred, as I gently, gracefully slid my thin knife up the side of a fragrant vanilla bean, as I sweetened and tasted and sweetened it a bit more and as I lovingly spooned creamy portions into elegant dishes, he recounted the story of his mother feeding them this delicacy simply in order to fill up their tiny tummies, like a sweet version of castor oil meant to plump and protect, and I stared at him in amazement and wondered that he could still love it, still clamor for it, still think of Riz au Lait as comfort food, homey and good, redolent of sweet memories. And with this one simple dish, I made my man smile.

"--powerful! Crush the lesser races! Conquer the galaxy! Unimaginable power! Unlimited rice pudding! Et cetera! Et cetera!"
- Davros and the Doctor, in Remembrance of the Daleks


A perfect recipe for a treat so creamy, homey and delicious, a confection that is both simple to make and simple to eat, Riz au Lait is a versatile snack or dessert that can be flavored as one likes, stirring in plump raisins or chopped nuts, served with crème anglaise or stewed fruit, drizzled with warm chocolate sauce, spiked with rum or Amaretto or flavored with cinnamon, cardamom or nutmeg. But we find that it is just perfect as it is, mere child’s play.


RIZ AU LAIT
And not, as my husband stoutly declares, Rice Pudding

7 oz (200 g) uncooked rice for risotto or pudding
3 ¼ cups (750 ml) whole milk or half low-fat milk + half light or heavy cream
7 - 8 Tbs (100 – 120 g) sugar or to taste
1 vanilla bean
Pinch of salt
1 Tbs (15 g) unsalted butter

Place the rice in a colander with tiny holes (so as not to lose any rice out the bottom!) and rinse under running water until the water runs clear. Drain.

Place the rinsed rice in a saucepan and cover with water; bring the water to a boil and allow to boil for 5 minutes. Drain the rice.

Return the drained rice to a medium-sized saucepan with the whole milk (or half low-fat milk and half cream), 1 tablespoon of the sugar and a pinch of salt. Using a small, sharp knife split the vanilla bean down the center and scrape out all of the seeds. Add both the seeds and the pod to the other ingredients in the saucepan. Bring it just up to the boil and then immediately turn the heat down to very low and, placing a cover atop the saucepan but leaving it ajar, allow the pudding to simmer, stirring often, for 30 to 35 minutes or until the rice has absorbed almost all of the liquid. The rice should be very soft almost melting in the mouth. It should not be al dente. The pudding should be creamy, neither runny nor dry.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and remove and discard the vanilla bean pod. Stir in the tablespoon of butter and about half of the remaining sugar. Taste and add as much of the remaining sugar until desired sweetness. Spoon into individual serving dishes, glasses or bowls.


Riz au Lait is best eaten warm but this particular pudding is delicious at room temperature and even stays creamy when chilled (if, for example, there are any leftovers). Riz au Lait can also be served with cooked fruit or jam served atop it to give it a tangy kick.


56 comments:

Sara@OneTribeGourmet said...

Jamie, you are an Amazing writer, I would like some lessons from you! :) Love the rice pudding, looks so creamy & yummy!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

That first quote is so true. At home, rice pudding was a tradition (it was baked in the oven the traditional English way). In the past I was never a big fan of that dish, but now I like it. Somehow, I really consider rice pudding as being a man's snack as I know no male who doesn't like and crave it (just say rice pudding/Milchreis to my boyfriend and his eyes will lihght up)!

You riz au lait looks so good, comforting and incredibly creamy!

Cheers,

Rosa

Kulsum@JourneyKitchen said...

Jamie. This looks fabulous. The little pecks of vanilla are making me drool, I wish I could use vanilla pods as often!

Susan: My Food Obsession said...

I love rice pudding... this looks delicious!

Jamie said...

@Rosa: That thought is really interesting and I wonder why men love this? Cause it comes from mama?

@Kulsum: I have a small stash of vanilla pods and try so hard to mete them out, use them sparingly and although I could have used vanilla extract for this it just screamed for a real vanilla bean.

@Sara: You just paid me the most amazing compliment, one that inspires and motivates me as a writer and I thank you so very much.

Amelia PS said...

wonderful post...and the quote is so true...rice pudding holds a special place in my heart too.

Asha @ FSK said...

weirdly I never liked rice pudding, even the Indian version. I much prefer the South Indian rich pudding made with vermicelli...

Love your story!! :)) i grew up the traditional way too.. all homemade.. so I get your hub's craving for riz au lait :)

Cherine said...

I love coming here and reading your posts!
Your riz au lait looks wonderful... Your husband should be really happy :)

My Little Expat Kitchen said...

This dessert is traditional in Greece as well but I never cared for it really. My boyfriend does though. Is it a man thing? Do all mothers of boys feed them rice pudding?
If I ever was to eat it again I would sprinkle it with lots of cinnamon, my favorite spice, or make it like yours, with vanilla. You are tempting me to make this for him... :)
Magda

Peter M said...

Us Greeks love our rice puddin' and this sure makes me want a bowl.

Jonell Galloway said...

What a lovely article, Jamie. And I feel sure the riz au lait was just as lovely as the article.

The Pleasure Monger said...

i've never had Riz Au Lait before, and I love creamy desserts...this is going into my recipe book!!

ABowlOfMush said...

Wow this looks luxurious!
So delicious!

bunkycooks said...

I think you need to write a novel! Your writing flows beautifully. :) I have not made rice pudding in a very long time and the way you have described everything makes me want to prepare some for dessert this evening!

Tanantha @ I Just Love My Apron said...

I love your writing! This rice pudding looks so beautiful and delicious. Your picture are gorgeous!

Cathy Sweeney said...

Those photos are delicious! My mom made rice pudding quite often and we all, particularly my dad, loved it. I still love a really good rice pudding and yours looks fabulous. I also enjoyed your well-written story.

Nina Timm said...

There are very few things as comforting as rice pudding. I love the liitle portions although I hope you had seconds hidden somewhere!!

Lana said...

I was raised on this dish, too, but it had a Turkish name, "sootliyash" (I wrote phonetically, because i have no idea how to spell it properly)
Warm, creamy, cinnamon sprinkled on top and plum raisins in the middle...
Now I want my Mommy!
There is something really seductive about warm, milky, creamy desserts, and I do not blame your husband for taking the advantage:)
It's so funny, my husband behaves just the same like yours (as in begging with wide open eyes:)

Nuts about food said...

I love how the vanilla seeds just pop out in the pictures.

girlichef said...

How magical! Sometimes it's the littlest gestures that warm our hearts. The riz au lait looks so creamy and delicious...and yes, definitely comforting. I think it's the same way w/ my hubs and his arroz con leche...he loves it the way his mom made it. Only I let him do it, he makes it the best, LOL! :)

Jamie said...

@girlichef: I am amazed at how many people left comments here about how much their husbands love the stuff! And I think my husband wanted me specially to make it; I think the love I put into it made it taste better? Don't know but as great a cook he is he wanted ME to make this for him!

Sippity Sup said...

I don't have much of a history with rice pudding. So I can't land in either camp you described. But my BF revers the stuff past all reason. And yes, it's power comes from the memories of his grandmother and childhood. You are so good at making those connections. GREG

5 Star Foodie said...

Such a lovely post and the riz au lait is just gorgeous! A perfectly delicious treat!

görel said...

This is actually very much like our Swedish "risgrynsgröt", served on Christmas Day (or any other day during Christmas), although there is no vanilla but very often cinnamon.

Left-overs can be mixed with whipped cream AND vanilla (this time it's mandatory!) and served with citrus fruits or raspberry or blueberry jam.

Having seen your gorgeous pics, I think that I really need to involve a vanilla pod into this year's "risgrynsgröt"...

shaz said...

Lucky hubby :) I must try your version of Riz au Lait Jamie, it looks delightful. Try as I might I cannot get excited by rice pudding even though I eat copius amounts of plain rice. I guess, like you mentioned, it's a cultural thing.

Mary said...

Jamie, you have as usual charmed me. The pudding looks delicious and I suspect is a bit tastier the the pudding of your husband's childhood. Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Deeba PAB said...

Love the quote bella...and you do it in style! Love the pud when I saw it at Huff Po, and love it here again! Beautiful pictures too...

foodwanderings said...

Hi Jamie, this is incredible to me such a great post. This time drawing parallels not with you but your husband! Shocked to find out the french were bundling their babies as the Indians do and same rice pudding as a comfort food! Gorgeous pics too! Shulie

Ivy said...

Love this creamy riz au lait or rice pudding but too much time stirring, so I usually cook it in the oven. Did you know that this is a recipe you can find in almost all cuisines. The Greek version is called ryzogalo and means rice and milk. The method is almost the same but it is thickened with corn starch, needing less time to set and is served with cinnamon on top.

katiez said...

I love it, mon mari loves it.... It never occurred to me to make it....
Both my mother and his mother made it all the time... I guess it's not sophistacated enough. I think I'll make some.

Lisa said...

Oh, I have MAJOR history with rice pudding, as in growing up fighting my mother for every last spoonful of the pound or so she used to purchase from this wonderful deli.

Once I started making it myself, I couldn't decide if I liked the baked custard type or creamy eggless stove top 'diner' type, more. OK, love them both, but REALLY love yours and want to try it. I think the difference between the way you and your hubby went about meals as children gave your life together two traditions, the best of both worlds :) LOVE reading your stories!

OH, and not to piss your hubby off, but it will always be rice pudding to me LOL Gorgeous, gorgeous photos!

Finally, I won't be able to take part in MacTweets until January. I have cupcakes, Thanksgiving Dinner, Gingerbread, co-hosting the January Daring Cooks challenge, which has to be prepared and submitted within the next few weeks, and holiday briskets/ prime rib etc. I keep filling my plate up too much, and missing out on all the lovely macaron ideas with each theme :( Well..New Year, clean 'plate' and plenty of time to 'mac' again :)

Ananda Rajashekar said...

Love the quote pudding looks divine, how beautifully posted :)

LimeCake said...

Mmm rice pudding is so comforting. I personally like sticky rice pudding, but this looks delicious!

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

That looks very pretty and I spy one of my napkins from the prop swap!!

I was interested when visiting France when Ted was just a year old that they only sold individual cartons of baby milk with cereal in them - and more surprised too that they did them in vanilla and chocolate flavours! Stuff like this isn't allowed in the UK and Ted lapped it up!!!!

Jamie said...

@Sarah, Maison Cupcake: the French are infamously known for feeding their babies sweetened treats from the get-go. Sugar in their bottles, sweetened choc & vanilla baby formula, sweetened puddings and cheese desserts (fromage frais) and crème caramel. I remember a housemate of ours when we were first married serving her one year old lunch: fried hamburger and a crème caramel. When the girl refused to eat any of it the mom pushed her to "just drink the caramel from the pudding at least". Ugh!

Lael Hazan @educatedpalate said...

Whatever you wish to call it, it is wonderful! Your post brought back memories. My grandmother made me "rice pudding" not RIZ AU LAIT, and it was wonderful. I shall now have to make it for my kids.

Lynne from FrancoFoodie said...

Goodness me, I love "rice pudding"... I can't believe my 4 year old refuses to eat it. I'm happy he doesn't have a sweet tooth but, still, le riz au lait should be the exception to the rule. Chanceuse va :) Merci.

Conor @ Hold the Beef said...

You may have captured your husband's heart with this delectable rice pudding, but you captured mine with the quote from The Doctor :D

asiangrrl said...

Jamie, poor JP having to do without for so long! I never had rice pudding as a child, but I simply adore it. Yours looks almost too good to eat.

Aparna said...

Isn't it interesting how rice pudding (there, I said it :D) is comfort food in so many cultures across the world?
Yours looks lovely.
Just made some today. We make it the same way, except its a little less thick in consistency and we use cardamom instead of vanilla.

Rossella said...

Being Italian, I didn't know pudding at least till I started cooking. It's more common here rice and milk but we don't call it pudding.
I adore you're writing style.

honeybeecooksjackfruit said...

So many lovely recipes you have! Will be bookmarking your blog for sure.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Isn't it how funny how you both love food so much yet you came from such different childhoods! :D And what a nice wife you are to make this for him! I don't think I would know how to make the food that Mr NQN grew up with!

lostpastremembered said...

I love your blog.. just found it thanks to Not QUite Nigella and look forward to many visits. The Tom Stoppard quote is priceless!

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

LOL - I think my childhood sounds more like yours than JP's! Love the rice pudding - so creamy & comforting :)

kuhn rikon pressure cooker said...

Riz au lait reminds me of childhood because my grandma used to make it for me sister and me. I make it for my children occasionaly and they love it. A similar recipe is the rice cake, you just add eggs in the riz au lait and put it in the oven.

Pavithra said...

Wow this is my fav one and loved ur pictures as well.

Debugcooking said...

Love this creamy Vanilla version..I grew up with home-made cardamom flavoured kheer (like they call t back home)just like JP..I think I have made a rum & raisin version as well that I simply love..must try this!

C&G said...

J'ai toujours voulu le faire le riz au lait.... il a l'air vraiment super super bon! Compte nous parmi tes lecteurs fidèles à partir d'aujourd'hui! Giorgia de C&G

Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

This sound so interesting! I love rice pudding, and anything French, so this is definitely for moi

By the way, I'm envious of your writing :)

Sue said...

I know my husband will LOVE this(me too)! He loves rice pudding and this is the "amped up" version:) It looks so wonderfully creamy:)

Junglefrog said...

O now that brings back childhood memories for me as well.. We call it rijstemelk which loosely translated would mean exactly the same as Riz au lait... My mum used to make this too and my grandma.. (in fact; I can't remember where I had it most..lol) and I love it. It's not something that is very common here anymore and I am sure younger kids growing up today will never get rijstemelk served to them but still... I am soooo going to make this too!! Thanks for reminding me!

Tamanna said...

nothing melt my heart like good ol's creamy rice pudding! we call it 'kheer' and make it a whole lot of cardammom and nuts! me love love loves this one! yummm

Kevin said...

That rice pudding looks amazing! A good rice pudding always hits the spot.

Y said...

Looks delicious! I didn't grow up eating rice pudding either (sago/tapioca pudding would have been the closest equivalent) but was taught how to make it in a French restaurant I once worked in and can certainly understand why anyone would feel nostalgic about it.

Sophia Del Gigante said...

Yummmmm! Rice Pudding rocks, Riz Au Lait, sounds even fancier, LOL! Beautiful and well written!

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...