Cinnamon-Sugar Rice Pudding with Bourbon-Soaked Raisins

I was always that person that gave rice pudding the side eye. You know, the skeptical sideways glance that said, “Maybe, but deep down, I know I won’t like it.” For years, I had the hardest time wrapping my head around a sweet dessert that was based primarily on rice. Rice, as far as I was concerned, was meant to be served alongside chicken and a salad. Then I started seeing rice pudding pop up in a number of places. At first, my initial reactions were the same – I just couldn’t get into it. Before long, I was starting to feel a little tug at my taste buds. Most of the rice pudding dishes I was seeing looked not just good, but down right delicious. Like sweet comfort food for the soul. I made a mental note to give it a try at some point to see what I thought. That day came, and I’m sorry it didn’t come years sooner. I’ve been missing out on an amazing dessert – rich and creamy, loaded with flavor, and absolutely worthy of being deemed comfort food.

What I failed to realize during my unofficial boycott of rice pudding is that it’s very much a dessert version of risotto. I happen to love risotto, it’s one of my favorite dishes. Rice pudding uses the same basic premise as risotto, but instead of broth, you use water, milk, and cream to achieve a creamy, pudding-like consistency with the rice. Ah, decadence, one of my favorite things. Once you add your flavors of choice – here we have bourbon, raisins, vanilla, and cinnamon – this dessert reaches an entirely new level. You can eat it warm, room temperature, and chilled, which also makes it very versatile when serving to company. I tried it at all three stages and can honestly say I enjoyed each one, and don’t really have a favorite. It has a creamier consistency when warm, and then firms up a bit as it cools, so go with whatever your personal preference is.

The flavor combinations here are virtually limitless, although it seems that cinnamon and raisins are fairly traditional. I couldn’t help but to soak the raisins in bourbon; after doing so in other recipes, I’ve found that it gives a nice extra kick of flavor.

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Cinnamon-Sugar Rice Pudding with Bourbon-Soaked Raisins

Ingredients:

¾ cup raisins

3 tablespoons bourbon

2 cups water

1 cup medium-grain white rice

¼ teaspoon salt

2½ cups whole milk

2½ cups half-and-half

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Directions:

1. Combine the raisins and the bourbon together in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. As soon as it reaches a simmer, remove from heat, cover, and set aside.


2. Bring 2 cups water to boil in large, heavy-bottomed pot (at least 3 quarts). Stir in the rice and salt; cover and simmer over low heat, stirring once or twice until the water is almost fully absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.


3. Add the milk, half-and-half, and sugar. Increase the heat to medium-high to bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain simmer without boiling. Cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until the mixture starts to thicken, about 30 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, stirring every couple of minutes to prevent sticking and scorching, until a spoon is just able to stand up in the pudding, about 15 minutes longer.


4. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the raisins (with any extra bourbon), vanilla extract, and cinnamon. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled. (It can be covered with plastic wrap on the surface of the pudding and then refrigerated up to 2 days.) You can stir in some extra milk if reheating it, to achieve the original creamy consistency, if you'd like.


Recipe Notes:


- You can omit the bourbon if you don't wish to use liquor. Simply add the plain raisins to the pudding when directed in the recipe.


- You can completely omit the raisins if you don't like them. Feel free to substitute another dried fruit if you wish, or leave out entirely.


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(Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated)


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