When I first read the recipe for slow-baked rice pudding in the great food writer Laurie Colwin's More Home Cooking, with her description of how the lemon peel dissolves into the pudding, I stuck my thumb between the pages and went straight to the kitchen.
If you like rice pudding, this is the ultimate comfort food, scented with lemon, and not very sweet, so perfectly acceptable for breakfast. The best part is the creamy texture, with the rice dissolving into transparent bits that melt on the tongue, and strips of lemon peel are practically candied.
This is what I think of as a really classic Laurie Colwin recipe, in that it is simple, homey, and a little idiosyncratic. It's written conversationally, as most of her recipes are, and it is borrowed from the great British writer Jane Grigson — another of my favorite inspirations.
It's also idiosyncratic in terms of taste. This is an extremely homey and rustic rice pudding. Unlike more sophisticated rice puddings that are cooked with a custard, keeping them silky and rich, this is basically just rice baked in the oven with milk. The milk reduces slowly as the rice cooks, leaving you with plumped-up grains and thin strips of lemon peel that become extremely tender in the oven.
It is the easiest thing ever, and precisely calibrated to my personal tastes. You have to love rice, the slight bitterness of lemon, and a rustic — almost grainy — texture to your pudding. To me, as to Colwin, that is basically heaven. As she says, it is "suave, sophisticated baby food." It's also the kind of thing you throw together with cupboard staples in 5 minutes, and slurp straight from the oven, then eat for breakfast the next morning. Home cooking at its finest.
Read the original recipes
Lemon Rice Pudding
Adapted from Laurie Colwin & Jane Grigson. Makes 4 servings of 1/2-cup.
1 medium lemon, preferably Meyer lemon
1/4 cup jasmine rice
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup 2% milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Preheat the oven to 250°F. Peel the lemon with a vegetable peeler, being careful not to take any of the white pith away with the rind. Cut the peel into fine strips. Mix the peel with the rice, sugar, and salt in a 9-inch pie dish. Stir in the milk and cream.
Bake uncovered for about 2 hours, stirring every 30 to 45 minutes. As the milk reduces, it will form a thin layer on top of the pudding; simply break this up and stir it in.
Final baking time will depend on your oven, the pie dish, and how thick you prefer your rice pudding. When ready, the rice will be completely cooked and tender but the pudding will still be soupy and thin. As it cools, however, it will firm up considerably.
Eat hot, warm, or cold.
Using half-and-half: You can substitute half-and-half for the milk and cream.
Adjusting the richness: This ratio of milk and cream makes a very rich, thick pudding, especially after it cooks. You can also use whole milk and substitute it for both the milk and cream. This still makes a creamy pudding but it's less rich.
On Meyer lemons: I have used regular lemons and Meyer lemons in this recipe, and I prefer Meyers because their herbal notes go so well with jasmine rice. Their more delicate rind also seems to give this a nicer texture.
Updated from recipe originally posted November, 2006.
(Image credits: Faith Durand)