A Minimalist's Rice Pudding

When it comes to desert and grains, wheat is by far the king, with flour turning up in nearly every treat you could put together to end a meal with. But rice, too, has its place in the sweetest course, with its natural, unadorned flavor lending itself well to wonderfully to rich ingredients like milk and cream, its soft texture a perfect counterpoint for fresh fruit, as seen in the Southeast Asian standard of mango and sticky rice, or even the not-so-fresh, rum-soaked raisins that feature in many an arroz con leche. Its arguably less versatile, with its lack of gluten making it not as baking-friendly as wheat, although Japanese pastry chefs and mochi fanatics would most certainly have something to say about that.

But with countless iterations of rice pudding available to us, from the aforementioned Mexican and Southeast Asian varieties, to the cardamom-infused, pistachio-studded Indian version to this purists' version–featuring just milk, cream, sugar, vanilla and rice–do we really need rice to do any wheat-like tricks? 

Guy Savoy, the three Michelin star-bearing French chef of, natch, Guy Savoy in Paris (and Vegas), certainly doesn't seem to think so, as this, the simplest, most minimalist of rice puddings, is a recipe that comes from him, by way of the food blog Kiss my Spatula. If a world-famous chef thinks there's no need to fuck with tradition, we're not going to argue with him.

A note: do not use vanilla extract for this recipe. Vanilla beans are insanely expensive, but the intensity and depth of flavor found in the true product, along with the fine-grit texture of the seeds, make the dish here. Made with extract, the pudding would be downright boring. And the beans can be saved to make vanilla sugar, a great asset to in any pantry.

Rice Pudding

½ cup short-grain rice (such as Arborio, Carnaroli, etc.)
2 ½ cups whole milk
1 ¼ cups heavy cream or half-and-half
2 vanilla beans (don't even think about substituting extract in this recipe; throw down some cash for the good shit)
¼ sugar

1)    Put the rice in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Strain of water and remove from heat.
2)    Add milk and cream to pan. Split the vanilla beans and scrape out the seeds with the tip of a knife, adding both the beans and seeds to the pot.
3)    Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 45-50 minutes
4)    Add the sugar and simmer for 10 minutes more
5)    Remove from heat and allow the pudding to cool for at least two hours before serving

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