But it's not the kind of thing you can have whenever the mood strikes. Mom doesn't just whip it up on a whim. You will never happen by her house and find a bowl of it on her refrigerator shelf. For her to make it, you must be sick--and not just with the sniffles--or else sit through a holiday dinner, and usually a Jewish holiday at that.
So why not make some myself? That's what I thought too, and for many years I was after her for the recipe. Finally, after claiming to have lost the original, she scribbled something on a page of looseleaf paper and handed it to me with the warning that it might not be accurate. Did she smile a little to herself as she said this? I can't remember.
Now, my relationship with rice is rather one-sided. I like it. It does not like me. Whether it's converted or Arborio, Jasmine or Basmati, one thing is certain: I can't, for the life of me, make a good pot of rice. So what was I doing trying to make pudding from this capricious grain?
Well, the recipe she gave me was wrong. Or else I just suck at making anything with rice. It was a big batch recipe, so I had a large scale disaster on my hands. I capitulated then and there and contented myself with boil-in-the-bag Uncle Ben's, and counting the days until Rosh Hashanah. But a week ago, a bout with the sniffles left me with an insatiable craving for mom's rice pudding. Unwilling to commit the same error twice, I searched the Internet for a new recipe to screw up.
I knew mom's recipe was unique because it called for a custard made with egg yolks, with the whites whipped and folded in at the end. Would you believe that of the million-plus rice pudding recipes available on the Web, there wasn't one that used this method? So I decided to go in another direction altogether. I recalled a rice pudding I had had in --of all places--Fort Pierce, Florida, while visiting my grandmother. It was rum raisin rice pudding--doesn't that sound sort of senior citizenish?--but it truly was the highlight of the Early Bird Special. Not the mousse-like dish of nostalgia my mom serves up, but delicious in its own right. I decided to recreate it.
I used Elise Bauer's recipe at http://simplyrecipes.com/ as a jumping off point. Then, realizing the cabinet was bereft of rum, and feeling too miserable to leave the house, I soaked sultanas in Jack Daniels instead.
Continuing with this exotic theme, I cracked some cardamom pods and threw them in the pot as well.
The end result looks darned good, doesn't it?
Well, don't be fooled. The few spoonfuls I had out of the pan tasted alright, but I must have cooked down the custard for too long because, after a few hours in the fridge, it seized up to the consistency of a brick. The cardamom tasted just plain weird, and who honestly craves cardamom when they have a cold? The whiskey-soaked raisins still tasted pretty good, so I fished out a few more before burying the whole mess in the back of the fridge and eating a Cozy Shack flan instead.