Inspired by the not-too-sweet rice puddings of India, Hugh Acheson keeps the sugar to a minimum in this version made with rice grits (broken grains of rice). In a nod to the South's favorite drink, he tops the pudding with sweetened milk that's been flavored with tea and spices. The most unexpected ingredient: butternut squash. "I think it can work really well in dessert," he says.
More Rice Pudding Recipes
1 quart whole milk, plus more for thinning
3 1/2 cups water
1 cup rice grits (see Note) or long-grain rice coarsely ground in a blender
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup strong-brewed black tea
One 3-inch cinnamon stick, broken
4 cardamom pods, crushed
1/2 cup pecans
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup peeled and 1/2-inch-diced butternut squash
1 Granny Smith apple—peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch dice
How to Make It
In a medium saucepan, combine 3 cups of the whole milk with the water and bring to a boil. Stir in the rice grits and a pinch of salt and simmer over low heat, stirring often, until the rice is tender and pudding-like, about 1 1/2 hours. Stir in 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar. Cover the saucepan and remove from the heat.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, combine the black tea, cinnamon stick pieces, crushed cardamom and the remaining 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and bring to a boil. Cook over moderate heat until the mixture is syrupy, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup of milk and simmer 5 minutes longer. Strain the sweet milk tea.
Put the pecans in a pie plate and bake for about 8 minutes, until toasted. Let the nuts cool, then coarsely chop them.
In a large nonstick skillet, melt the butter. Add the diced squash and cook over moderate heat until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Stir in the diced apple and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash and apple are just tender, about 3 minutes longer.
Reheat the rice pudding until it is very warm. If it is too thick, thin it with whole milk, about 1/4 cup at a time. Spoon the rice pudding into small bowls and pour the sweet milk tea on top. Spoon the squash, apples and pecans onto the pudding and serve.
The rice pudding, sweet milk tea, squash and apple can be refrigerated separately overnight. Store the toasted pecans at room temperature. Reheat the rice pudding gently, adding more milk as necessary before assembling.
Nutty, dried fruitscented tawny ports are fantastic partners for fall-inspired desserts like this rice pudding with butternut squash and apple. Two to look for are Warre's Otima 10 Ten Year Old Tawny and Quinta do Infantado Tawny.
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