If you are looking for an easy, delicious, and comforting dessert inspiration then look no further than this rice pudding. I am a fan of all puddings, but had never tried to make rice pudding until this weekend. I kept seeing recipes for different versions on blogs and in magazines, and all looked amazing and simple. I decided to merge two recipes for my first foray into rice pudding, one from Gourmet and the other from Food and Wine magazine. I liked that one used arborio rice (which I happened to have a box of already on hand) while the other used an interesting combo of lemon, vanilla and cinnamon as flavoring. You can really let your imagination run wild with rice pudding by adding everything from raisins to rum. It is a very basic dessert classic that is as satisfying plain as it is dressed up. Another selling point is that it is very inexpensive to make for a crowd. You can serve this family style out of a big ceramic dish or spoon into delicate glasses or ramekins for a more elegant presentation.
1 cup arborio (risotto) rice
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cinnamon stick
3 strips of lemon zest (approx 3-4" in length each)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the rice and cook for 3 minutes. Drain the rice and return it to the saucepan. Add the milk, cream, cinnamon stick and zest. Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to low and cook for about 25 minutes, until the rice is very tender (it will still look a little soupy, that's ok as the rice will absorb more liquid as it sits). Stir in the sugar and vanilla and remove the pan from heat. Discard the cinnamon stick and zest. Pour the pudding into a 9x13 inch baking dish (or any large dish that will allow the pudding to be spread out to cool). Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until chilled, preferably 2-3 hours.
When ready to serve, distribute the pudding evenly between 6 ramekins or small glasses. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon and/or fresh fruit of your choice.