The other day, I was waiting outside a restaurant in the Marais when I started to feel something I’d never felt before in Paris. My fingers and toes were starting to go numb.
I know I talk about the weather a lot here, and I know that must get incredibly boring, but there’s just so much weather here that I’ve never experienced before: grey, rainy springs, summer that lasts about two weeks, the first cold snap of fall. That last one is something we’re in this week. When we finally got inside the restaurant a few days ago, I kept my jacket on the whole time and my toes didn’t warm up until we got home and I put them up on one of the heaters for a few minutes.
The cold also drove me into my warm cozy kitchen to try something that’s been on my mind: what I’ve been thinking of as sweet risotto, but what the internet tells me is rice pudding. Short-grained arborio rice, toasted to a nutty brown with butter, enriched with vanilla-speckled milk until it’s creamy and soft.
I’m told that it’s most often served cold, but I can’t imagine why anyone would want to do that when they can have it warm and steaming, with a sprinkling of cinnamon on top and a mug of coffee on the side.
Toasted Arborio Rice Pudding
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup arborio rice
In a saucepan, combine the milk, sugars, and salt. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds and pulp out using the back side of your knife. Add the bean and its seeds and pulp to the milk mixture in the saucepan and set over low heat. Cook until milk just starts to simmer, then remove from heat and allow to steep while you prepare the rice.
Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat, then add the rice and turn the heat up to medium-low. Cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes, until some of the rice grains have taken on a golden-brown color and the whole pot smells toasty.
Add about 1/4 of the milk mixture to the rice and stir until almost all of the milk has been absorbed. Add another 1/4 of the milk mixture and cook, stirring, until this addition of milk has been absorbed as well. Continue until all of the milk has been added. Remove from heat while the mixture is still a little on the wet side, as it will continue to absorb liquid as it cools.
Serve warm or cold with a sprinkling of cinnamon on top.
If you don’t have a vanilla bean, you can substitute a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Though if you do have a vanilla bean, this is the recipe you want to use it in: it gets to be the star. I like the big flavor I get from using a whole bean, but you could just use half if you’re not as enamored with vanilla as I am.
You really do need to keep stirring pretty much the whole time. Arborio rice releases a lot of starch into the milk, and that’s just a recipe for a sticky burnt mess. You can leave it for maybe a minute at a time, but no more.
You could do this with all granulated sugar if you like. I just love the hint of molasses the brown sugar adds.
Music to cook by: Talking in Code [Margot & The Nuclear So & So’s // The Dust Of Retreat]