I’ve been friends with Mary D for more than a decade. She’s a classy, sassy blonde who teaches math to kids on Long Island (don’t mess with her), sings choral music and is an accomplished guitarist who does a kick-ass rendition of the theme from “Secret Agent Man” (among other more traditional works). She also has a wicked sense of humor. Some might call it notorious.
Mary’s Rice Pudding recipe is a classic – a signature dish and crowd pleaser that became a hotly-anticipated offering at pot lucks, holiday parties and buffets as we forged our way through life on Long Island in the mid-1990s.
There it was again at my brother’s annual Carols and Carousing party just after Christmas. Mary had brought her Rice Pudding – covered in foil – in one of those archetypal Pyrex oven-proof bowls. She’d thought of everything. Half of the pudding contained raisins, and half was plain, in case somebody at the party didn’t like raisins (try and figure out that technique!).
Some time later, I decide to give it a try and dig out the recipe, long-buried in my somewhat poorly organized “historic recipe” file. The directions are exactly what you’d expect from Mary – straight-talking and to the point. It’s not a simple recipe – and requires more than an hour of hands-on preparation.
When the pudding comes out of the oven, I dial up Mary.
“Are you ready for a rice pudding break?” I ask. “I made your recipe and I thought you might like to check it out.”
“Because I’m the Alexa Hente of rice pudding?” she asks.
“Actually, I’m a little nervous,” I admit. "You're the master."
“I’d hate to be you right now,” says Mary.
I show up on Mary’s porch that afternoon, covered dish in hand. She passes out bowls and she takes a taste. I hold my breath. Mary is not the type to gush with praise. She nods slowly and approvingly. It is good. That’s praise enough for me.
“It’s traditional,” she says. “But, people don’t make pudding much anymore. I serve it warm, which is nice. It’s very comforting.”
She tells me she got a version of the recipe from a colleague some twenty-five years ago and “changed it up” a bit to make it her own.
“Most people bring Entenmann’s or Dunkin Donuts to a party,” she says. This takes time. It’s unique.”
For years, Mary has kept this recipe under lock and key, awarding it only to me after proving my nose for white wine. She’s now graciously agreed to share it with the readers of Culinary Types. And, you don’t even have to know the difference between a Pinot Grigio and a Sauvignon Blanc.
As the rice cooks, it takes on the characteristics of a creamy risotto. When the eggs are added, and the pudding is baked, it emerges from the oven a glowing, sunny-golden color. The raisins add a little attitude. Mary recommends serving slightly warm, or at room temperature.
I think you'll agree that it's a classic - just like Mary D.
2 cups water
1 cup rice
5 tablespoons butter
5 cups milk
¾ cup (plus a bit more) sugar
Vanilla to taste (about 2 teaspoons)
½ cup raisins (optional)
1. Boil the water. Add the butter, salt and rice. Continue boiling mixture for 7 minutes stirring often.
2. After the 7 minutes, stir mixture again making sure none is stuck to the bottom. Then add 5 cups of milk and turn flame on high for a few minutes to get things going. Keep stirring.
3. When the mixture heats up pretty well, turn heat way down and simmer covered for one hour, stirring often.
4. While that is simmering, combine eggs, sugar and vanilla and beat with a whisk until well blended. You’re gonna bake in this so you should be using a large oven-proof bowl or casserole.
5. The rice mixture is done when you’ve got a nice thick consistency. At that point, pour the rice mixture into the egg mixture stirring vigorously. When that is thoroughly mixed, add raisins and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.
©2010 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved
©2010 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved