Monday, November 17, 2008
twd: arborio rice pudding
arborio rice pudding pre- Big Chill
The first gentle, shimmery skiff of snow to drape on roofs and line my deck fell tonight--a preview of months of whiteness (and grey, but don't let's speak of those more-than-touches-of grey tonight) to come. Despite my despair at never ending months of winter, that first snow has a holy, mystical quality, especially when it comes gently like it did here and not en masse as it did on my native side of Lake Michigan (drive slower, dear brother of mine!). I'm almost tempted to haul the antiquated VCR out of the closet to watch "First Snow," an episode of Northern Exposure where the town celebrates this very moment (though I'm not sure I can look at Alaska quite the same way again post-Palin).
And so, after reading the weekly dose of Annie Dillard for class tomorrow--her delightful chapter "Stalking" that recognizes the convergence of quantum physics and mysticism --and grading more painful-to-read research essays that require me to wield a pink highlighter with utmost precision--I took to the kitchen to cook this week's TWD recipe, arborio rice pudding (black or white or both) from Isabelle of Les Gourmandise d'Isa.
In my 30+ years of existence, I have never eaten, much less cooked rice pudding. I was always skeptical of this "Dessert," which seemed much too virtuous to be in the indulgent category that I generally reserve for Desserts (simple fruit concoctions notwithstanding). Now, Dorie suggests a chocolate variation, but still, chocolate and rice? Don't misunderstand--I ♥ rice, but in Dessert? I needed some convincing.
Luckily, my grocery store has a nifty little natural/organic/bulk foods area where, among many other rice varieties, one can purchase arborio rice. I love working with this starchy powerhouse, which makes for a simple and delicious risotto, a lovely dish to prepare when one needs a little kitchen zen. Say, after a stressful day of grading and navigating certain political waters, not to mention coming to terms with the seismic seasonal shift (I swear I'll adapt to winter one of these days, or at least stop bringing it up in every paragraph).
Though the rice pudding didn't demand as much stirring as a typical risotto, it was still a quiet, calm dish to prepare. No powerful whirl of the Kitchen Aid. No vigorous slapping (!) of dough. Just the soft, metallic scrape of my squared off spoon on the bottom of the pot. And the fleece-blankety warmth of hot milk and vanilla wafting through the house.
It is now chilling overnight, and in the morning, in lieu of my daily oatmeal, I will sample this heretofore unknown delicacy, feeling indulgent because I'm eating Dessert for breakfast.
Bon Jour! After a long chilly walk along the lake shore, the zebra mussel shells encased in frost, the hoary grasses reaching for the sun, I returned to the warmth of my kitchen to taste the rice pudding...while it did not thicken as much as I expected overnight, the flavor and texture wrapped around me with shouts of vanilla! comfort! home! I topped my little portion with dried cherries and pecans and savored every luscious bite. Hooray, arborio rice pudding!