Our own Chef Marisol Murano created this special recipe for the World Cup — an unofficial dessert that is made in almost every country participating in the event. For more Chef Marisol recipes, please see her book, Deliciously Doable Small Plates from Around the World.
The Indian version, made with basmati rice, spiced with cardamom and garnished with almonds and sultanas is exotically delicious. The Portuguese version, which calls for short-grain rice, egg yolks and cinnamon, is a creamy Iberian dream. My Venezuelan grandmother’s recipe called for long-grain rice and condensed milk.
Both the grain and the cooking method impact the creaminess of the final pudding. Whereas my grandmother’s and the recipes from Portugal boil the rice in water first, kheer is cooked in the milk. One disadvantage of cooking the rice directly in the milk is that it tends to stick to the bottom of the pan and requires constant stirring to keep it from burning.
The recipe I have concocted after traveling the world as a Destination Chef and after experimenting with several exotic grain varieties is the best of all worlds. It includes my grandmother’s condensed milk, the Portuguese egg yolks in moderation, and it is made with japonica, a short-grain variety of sushi rice.
In a final twist against the grain, I’ve added torched meringue. See what you think.
The Long and Short of it
Not all rice grains behave equally under pressure. Of the short grain rice varieties I tested for this recipe the sushi rice, also known as japonica, turned creamiest in the least amount of time.
The other varieties I used are listed below, along with some of their most distinctive features.
This Italian short-grain rice is named after the town of Arborio in Italy’s Po Valley. It is often used for risotto and to make rice pudding as well. Because it is both creamy and chewy at the same time, arborio is great for rice pudding.
A medium-grain rice grown in the Vercelli province in the Italian Piedmont, carnaroli has a higher starch content than arborio. It is also a little firmer and the grain is a little longer than arborio’s. It worked great for the arroz con leche, but it takes about 40 minutes to cook and it is expensive.
The Japanese short-grain rice used for sushi is oftentimes called japonica. It takes years of practice and patience to make sushi rice that is suitable for a sushi roll. After taking a class with a master sushi chef and realizing I could not wait 10 years to make the perfect rice, I decided on a shortcut: Why not use sushi rice to make arroz con leche? The grain is very short and it absorbs the milk beautifully. You may also use a sushi rice variety grown in California, known as calrose.
This isn’t a variety of rice, but rather a short-grain rice which has been infused with bamboo juice. This exotic grain has a lovely hue of jade and a slightly grassy taste reminiscent of green tea. It is also moist. I really hoped this would be my finalist because the color of the grain is lovely, the taste is subtle and the rice is full of nutrients. In the end, though, I found that to better appreciate its flavor subtleties this rice is better steamed or boiled. But if you want to indulge your inner panda, try it with white fish, with sea scallops or chirashi (Edo-style scattered sushi).
Of the long-grain varieties, basmati remained the crunchiest, even after boiling it in 10 cups of milk. I was aiming for creamy, so this wasn’t the rice for me.
Grown in north central India and Pakistan, basmati is a variety of long-grain rice. It is often used to make biryani, pulao and kheer. It has a sweet aroma reminiscent of pandanus leaves.
Originally from Thailand, jasmine rice has a nutty taste and fragrant aroma. The grains will stick together when cooked, though it isn’t as starchy as the short-grain varieties. Of the two long-grain varieties jasmine made for the creamiest arroz con leche, but not as creamy as sushi rice.
And now, for the winner: Arroz con Leche with Condensed Milk and Meringue.
The two secrets to this recipe are boiling the rice in water first and using sushi rice. Boiling the rice first substantially reduces the overall cooking time. And, as a bonus, because some of the starch is removed during boiling, this method keeps the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan as well.
Arroz con Leche with Condensed Milk and Meringue
For the Arroz con Leche
1 cup sushi rice
6 cups of water
1/8 tsp salt
1 cinnamon stick
3 1/2 cups whole milk
3 tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 can sweetened condensed milk
For the meringue:
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
3 tbs sugar
Arroz con leche:
1. Bring 6 cups of water and cinnamon stick to a boil in a saucepan. Add the rice and salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Drain.
2. Warm the milk in a saucepan. Add the drained rice and vanilla extract. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the rice from sticking. Add sugar in the last five minutes of cooking.
3. Combine egg yolk and sweetened condensed milk in a small bowl. Gently stir condensed milk mixture into the rice and cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, for five minutes. Remove from the heat. The rice will be very moist at this point, but it will continue to absorb the milk as it cools.
4. Spoon arroz con leche into a serving vessel and allow it to cool completely before garnishing with the meringue. If you prefer, you may also serve it in individual bowls.
1, Beat egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Slowly incorporate the sugar until mixture resembles shaving cream.
2. Using two tablespoons, shape meringue into small peaks. Torch carefully with a kitchen torch until peaks are golden brown, making sure the torch doesn’t get too close to the peaks, or they will burn.