It all began when I was in eighth grade and was responsible for bringing a Cuban dish for a party we were having in Spanish class. My mom pulled out an old dog-eared recipe card holder full of her family’s old recipes. She found my great grandmother’s recipe for arroz con leche and handed it to me. It seemed simple enough, so I made it for class and brought it the next day. I figured I had stumbled upon something important when my fellow students politely picked at all the other dishes and my arroz con leche was inhaled by everyone immediately. So, I started making it every year for my family for Christmas. I had to wrap it up in little containers to give them out individually because if I put it out with the other desserts at our Christmas dinner, people would complain about it being gone before they could have some. After a few years, my cousin surpassed me in cooking skills and I was more than happy to pass the baton in making the arroz con leche every year.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I saw my husband eating rice pudding out of a brightly colored plastic tub with gusto. “You know I can make homemade rice pudding,” I informed him. “Is it as good as this?”, he asked me incredulously. I stared at him, nonplussed.
I have decided to respond to that ridiculous question by making my first arroz con leche in about ten years. We’ll see what his verdict is.
I am attaching the recipe. It is a really easy dessert with not very many ingredients involved. It is time consuming, but so worth it. Trust me.
Arroz con Leche
•1 and 1/2 cups water
• 1 lemon peel
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 2 cups heavy whipping cream (or half and half)
• 2 cups milk
• 1 cup sugar
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
•1/2 cup short grained rice
1. Rinse rice. I do this by putting it in a small bowl and pouring water into the bowl, stirring the rice around with my fingers, and carefully pouring the water back out (don’t lose any rice!) I do this over and over again until the water pours out clear and no longer cloudy. I’m sure there is a better way to do it, but there is no turning back now.
2. Put rice, cinnamon stick, lemon peel, and water in a large pot and cook on medium heat, stirring often, until most of the water has cooked off, about seven minutes. DO NOT LET YOUR RICE BURN! Take out the cinnamon stick and lemon peel and discard.
3. Add milk, cream, vanilla, sugar and salt. (The cream really makes this recipe). Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens, about one hour.
4. Allow to cool completely and store in the refrigerator. Serve chilled.