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Foods in Which We Find Comfort … Ahhhh!

I was shocked out of my mind when I learned the origin of two of my all-time favorite comfort foods—rice pudding and bread pudding. Can you believe it, both were born out of, well—let’s just be straight up about it—poverty.

It was during the Great Depression that clever cooks who preferred to feed their families than let them starve, came up with the idea of making a special treat from the lowliest of ingredients—leftover rice and dry, stale bread. How clever.

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But even more amazing to me, both have become respectable—even gourmet—food items. Take the White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Orange Cognac Sauce at Ruth’s Chris Steak House or Rice Pudding with Caramel Sauce at L’Ami Jean in Paris. Oh my, both are to die for. Certainly not offerings that comes from anything close to poverty but inspiration to make gourmet versions of both—at home!

Indian Rice Pudding

  • 1 cup leftover cooked long grain or basmati rice
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 2 ounces white granulated sugar (approximately 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/3 cup ounces golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup chopped unsalted pistachios, approximately 1/3 cup

In a large nonstick saute or sauce pan over medium heat, combine the cooked rice and milk. Heat until it begins to boil. Decrease the heat and simmer until the mixture begins to thicken, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium, add the heavy cream, coconut milk, sugar, and cardamom and continue to cook until the mixture just begins to thicken again, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk continuously to make sure the doesn’t get clumpy. Once the mixture starts to thicken, remove from the heat and stir in the raisins and pistachios. Transfer the mixture to individual serving dishes or a glass bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Servings: 4.

Creamy Rice Pudding

  • 3/4 cup uncooked white rice
  • 2 cups milk, divided
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan; stir rice into boiling water. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

In a clean saucepan, combine the cooked rice, 1 1/2 cups milk, sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat until thick and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup milk, beaten egg, and raisins; cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Sprinkle with nutmeg or cinnamon to serve, if desired. Servings: 4.

Bread Pudding with Praline Sauce

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 (1 pound) loaf soft French bread, torn into small pieces
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup raisins, or more to taste (optional)

Sauce:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

Preheat oven to 325 F. Coat a 13×9-inch baking dish with 1/4 cup melted butter.
Place torn bread in a large bowl. Pour half and half and milk over; let soak for 10 minutes before gently stirring. Stir eggs into the bread mixture until incorporated. Add sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and raisins, stirring each addition into the mixture before adding the next. Spoon bread mixture into prepared baking dish.

Bake in preheated oven until bread mixture is firm and pudding-like, about 50 minutes.
To make sauce: Stir 1/2 pound unsalted butter, heavy cream, and brown sugar together in a heavy saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, stir pecans into the cream mixture, and simmer until the sugar is dissolved and the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Pour sauce over bread pudding to serve. Servings: 8 to 10.

Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce

  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 10 slices hearty farmhouse-style bread, toasted and cut into cubes
  • 1 cup raisins

Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a 2-quart baking dish. In a mixing bowl, whisk 3 eggs, white sugar, 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 cup of butter, and 3 cups of whole milk together, and gently stir in the bread cubes and raisins. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake in the preheated oven until browned and set in the middle, 50 to 55 minutes; cover the dish with foil after 30 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Let the pudding stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Vanilla Sauce: Whisk 1/2 cup light brown sugar, the flour, a pinch of cinnamon, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, 1 1/4 cups of whole milk,and salt together in a heavy saucepan until smooth. Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and the sauce coats the back of a spoon, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract. Pour sauce over warm bread pudding, or serve on the side in a small pitcher or bowl with ladle. Servings: 8.

So, what’s your favorite comfort food? Do you know anything about its origins? Or, what is your memory of it and why does it bring you to a place of security? If I listed all of my own comfort foods, this post would go on for miles. So, enough about me. Your turn …

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2 replies
  1. Birgit Nicolaisen says:

    I love warm rice pudding. This summer my DD discovered she loves it too. So leftover rice, some sweetened condensed milk and some regular milk so it’s not too thick. Throw in some raisins and heat on the stove. I’m all for simple folks…. 🙂

    Reply

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