Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Rich Risotto Rice Pudding
“Toothsome” may seem a word more suited from the mouth of a pirate when describing a particularly voluptuous and saucy wench, but it also means delicious, sumptuous, mouthwatering. There is also a certain sense of easy comfort (in both the wench and the food) it describes. This risotto rice pudding is just such a dish; voluptuously creamy, with firm but tender grains of Arborio rice suspended in a creamy yolk-tinged, vanilla-scented, milky pudding. It’s always amazing to me how little rice you really need to make a good rice pudding—remember, it’s the milk that makes the dish, reducing as the rice cooks. This robust rice pudding firms up remarkably as it cools, so don’t be nervous about all that milk as you first begin to cook it!
Serves 4 to 6
Combine the rice, milk, sugar, vanilla bean, cinnamon, and salt in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring every 5 minutes as the mixture starts to thicken, for about 30 minutes. Continue cooking until the rice is tender but not too mushy, about 15 minutes longer. The milk will be thick and the rice tender, but the mixture will still be very soupy, which is what you want. (As the pudding cools, it thickens, and if it is too thick while still hot, it will firm up into a thick, stodgy lump with out the unctuous creaminess of a great rice pudding.)
In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and cream together and stir into the rice pudding. Continue cooking the pudding over medium-low heat for about 2 to 3 minutes, until the eggs are cooked through and pudding is creamy and glossy, but still fairly soupy. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Grate a little nutmeg, if you like, into the pudding. Remove the vanilla pod. Pour the pudding into a serving bowl and press plastic wrap over the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 to 3 hours. Serve cold.
Note: This pudding is delicious as it is, or you can fold a dollop of whipped cream into each serving, or layer the pudding in a parfait glass with dulce de leche or caramel sauce, or just drizzle some sauce on top before serving.