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Ruby Ortizís Cinnamon Rice Pudding

Creamy rice pudding is the ultimate comfort food.  For some, it is also the taste of home and there are nearly as many versions the world over as there are cultures.  In Bali, you can have black rice simmered in coconut milk and, in Turkey, medium-grain rice perfumed with saffron and rosewater.  France probably has the most over-the top-version in Riz a líImperatrice: According to Larousse Gastronomique, the rice is cooked with milk, sugar and eggs, flavored with vanilla, and mixed with custard and whipped cream before being poured into a charlotte mould spread with gooseberry jelly.  (We havenít been tempted.) 

This is the simple version we make at home.  The recipe came to us from our Columbian housekeeper, Ruby Ortiz, who stirred rice with milk and cinnamon in our tiny New York kitchen, dreaming of the tropical life she left behind.  The sweet, creamy flavor comes from condensed milk which is often used in Latin American dessertsódonít leave it out.   For our children, Alexandra and Angus, Ruby added raisins to the pudding; grown-ups may enjoy the raisins plumped in dark rum. 

To serve 6 

Ingredients:

1 cup long grain rice (ordinary Carolina brand rice is best)
4 cups boiling water
4 cups milk
1 6-inch Indonesian cassia stick, broken in half
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4-cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4-cup raisins
1/4-cup dark rum
Ground cassia, to taste

Method:

1. Place the rice in a bowl and pour the boiling water over it.  Let it soak for 20 minutes, then drain it in a strainer.  Rinse the rice under cold running water until the water runs clear.
2. Combine the milk, cassia sticks and vanilla in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium low heat.  Add the rice, lower the heat, and cook slowly for about 30 minutes, until it is tender and has absorbed most of the milk.  Stir as often as necessary to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
3. While the rice is cooking, heat the rum in a small saucepan.  Stir in the raisins and set aside.
4. When the rice is creamy and tender, stir in the sweetened condensed milk.  Drain the raisins, reserving one tablespoon for garnish.  Stir the rest of the raisins into the pudding, cook for another minute and remove from the heat.  Discard the cassia sticks.
5. Serve the rice pudding in individual bowls while still warm.  Sprinkle each serving with a few raisins and a light dusting of ground cassia.

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