Friday, December 21, 2012

Rice Pudding

Let’s celebrate the holiday season with something sweet: rice pudding. This simple dessert plays a special role during the Christmas season around the world, particularly in Northern Europe. My favorite version comes from Guy Savoy: Simple French Recipes for the Home Cook [2004] by Guy Savoy. His recipe epitomizes homemade comfort food: short-grain rice simmered in a pot of milk and cream seasoned with vanilla and sugar. Savoy’s light and refined rice pudding makes an excellent dessert for a special meal or Christmas feast.

Guy Savoy: Simple French Recipes for the Home Cook follows-up his La Cuisine de mes Bistrots [1998]. In his Introduction to Simple French Recipes, Savoy writes: “I felt the need to reintroduce the art of home cooking. And just like my previous book, this one teaches how to succeed at what is simple….” Savoy’s presents his take on bonne femme classics: Dandelion Salad with Poached Egg; Swiss Chard Gratin; Roasted Chicken with Mashed Potatoes; and Veal Kidneys in Mustard Sauce. Savoy also includes recipes with a modern bent that embody the spirit of simple food: Cold Carrot Soup with Star Anise and Mozzarella; Scallops in a Lemongrass Nage; and Grilled Pork Ribs with Peaches.

I think the best dish in this worthwhile cookbook is Savoy’s outstanding Rice Pudding. Its creamy rich flavor yet surprisingly light texture makes his version a standout when compared to other rice puddings. It tastes as sophisticated as it is simple. Savoy writes: “For me, this is the dessert par excellence. It took me thirty years to come up with the nerve to put it on my dessert menu.” Here is his recipe.

Preparation Time: 5 minutes + 2 hours for chilling
Cooking Time: 1 hour
Serves: 4

½ cup short-grained white rice
2½ cups milk
1¼ cups heavy cream
2 vanilla beans
¼ cup sugar

Place the rice in a large saucepan. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and drain into a strainer.

Return the rice to the pan and add the milk and cream. Split the vanilla beans lengthwise and scrape the seeds with the tip of a paring knife. Add the pods and seeds to the saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Stir in the sugar and simmer for 10 minutes more. Pour the rice pudding into a small serving bowl, discarding the vanilla beans. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Serve the pudding at room temperature.

Savoy’s Rice Pudding is one of many excellent recipes in Simple French Recipes for the Home Cook. If this simple, straightforward cooking appeals to you, take a look at Vegetable Magic [1987], another strong Savoy cookbook. It is full of satisfying dishes in the style of Simple French Recipes for the Home Cook. Although not a vegetarian cookbook, vegetables play the starring role throughout.

With your rice pudding made, you are ready for the holidays. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Robbie Lobell Mixing Bowl

I have a crazy,
crazy love of things.
I like pliers,
and scissors.
I love
and bowls­ –

“Ode to Common Things”
By Pablo Neruda

If you spend any amount of time poking around this site, you will come across a handsome, sturdy ceramic bowl made by the supremely talented Robbie Lobell. After reading Paul Bertolli’s Cooking by Hand [2003] I began—and now prefer—mixing pasta dough ingredients in a bowl instead of on a wooden board. I started out using a blue Emile Henry bowl, but I worried that its rim might break off in my hand while pulling together a hard dough. This concern put me on the hunt for a suitable mixing bowl. It couldn’t be too deep and it needed to be really beefy.

Although my recollection isn’t perfect, I think I first learned about Robbie’s work while going through some links on the website of another supremely talented potter, Ayumi Horie. I owned one of Robbie’s lasagna pots, which possess all of the qualities that I wanted in a mixing bowl: simple, solid and functional.

After a conversation, Robbie created the perfect bowl for my needs. It’s a workhorse that I use each time I make pasta and whenever I bake. If you are looking for beautiful, rugged, reasonably-priced ceramic ware, I recommend looking at Robbie’s work.