Saturday, November 7, 2009

It Ain't Mom's...

My mom makes the best rice pudding ever. It is simultaneously creamy and light.  It is good hot out of the pot, cold from the fridge, or even lukewarm.  No matter how full you might be after a family dinner, it is always a welcome sight on the table.  And it never, ever has raisins in it.  

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 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.


  1. I really didn't hold out on you. Sometimes mine also doesn't come out right. But I love your blog!

  2. Hmmmm . . . Mom's always comes out right when I eat it! :-)
    But really, speaking of Cozy Shack, if Mom's rice pudding is not available, Cozy Shack is always good for some comfort!