Saturday, January 9, 2016

Risotto as Dessert

Part of my New Year Eve dinner menu paid tribute to some of the memorable dishes I had over the past year - I thought this was a good way to end the wonderful year with. When I was thinking what to do for dessert, I remembered the impressive bowl of rice pudding served by Chef Stephane Jego at L'Ami Jean in Paris when we were there in the summer. It looked ordinary and unassuming, but that combined with the sauce was one of the best desserts I have tasted. So I decided to replicate that with a touch of my own, bringing in the element of fusion.

Instead of the long grain rice more common for this part of the world, rice pudding works better with medium or short grains. I happened to have some Carnaroli rice in my kitchen - one normally used for risotto - so it's just perfect. But at my first trial of rice pudding, I made the mistake of assuming the liquid-rice portion to be similar to what I would have done for risotto, which is around 4 to 1. But actually a good rice pudding should have the consistency of a porridge, not al dente, so I should have gone for a higher ratio of 6 to 1 instead. The recipe here was adjusted accordingly, having validated against Chef Stephane's original recipe printed by the New York Times.

The original L'Ami Jean version paired with confiture de lait and pralines on the side. Confiture de lait is just a French term for something probably better known as Dulce de Leche in the non-Francophone world. And I prepared mine mixed with lotus seed paste - yup, things you would normally find in a Chinese mooncake. Something for a change and punch up a notch in sweetness, just the way I like it. (Ready made lotus seed paste could be easily found in local wet markets - try those stores selling flour and noodles or the Shanghainese grocery stores)

Recipe: Risotto Rice Pudding with Dulce de Leche and Lotus Seed Paste

Ingredients: (serves 4)

For the Rice Pudding:
  • 1/3 cup short-grain rice (Carnaroli is my risotto rice of choice, but that's not to say arborio - the other common type - is no good) - and if you use the Japanese rice cup for measurement, that's approx. one of those cups.
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 2 cup of whole milk
  • 2 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of whipping cream
For the Dulce de Leche:
  • 1 can/350g Condensed Milk
  • 4 tablespoon of whole milk, more as required
  • 2 tablespoon of ready-made lotus seed paste
  • dash of sea salt

1. There are several ways to make Dulce de Leche. (David Lebovitz's recipe is probably the simplest)
But I did mine slightly different by submerging the whole can (wrappers removed) in the water bath with my sous vide machine set at 85C and cooked for 12 hours. Let cool, open the can and transfer in a bowl and keep in refrigerator. To me that's the most hassle-free way. (Trust me, it's okay to cook with the whole can - it won't explode as long as it's fully submerged in water)
2. Then put butter in a wide saute pan, turn on medium heat, and put in the rice just when the butter has started melting. Stir occasionally and make sure the rice doesn't burn.
3. In the meantime, put whole milk in a separate saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Mix in sugar until completed dissolved. Turn down the heat to low.
4. Transfer simmering milk into the saute pan to cook the rice - one or two ladle at a time. Stir often to prevent burning. Do so until you emptied the saucepan of milk and the rice was completely softened and cooked through. That would take 15-20 minutes.
5. Turn off the heat, let cool to room temperature and transfer the rice into the refrigerator. Chill for a few hours and preferably overnight.
6. Before serving, put 4 tablespoons of Dulce de Leche (save the rest for some other use - it's good in the refrigerator for up to 3 months), 4 tablespoons of whole milk, 2 tablespoons of lotus seed paste and a dash of sea salt into a small saucepan. Turn heat to low, then began to whisk everything until smooth. Add more milk if the mixture is too thick until it reaches the consistency you desire. The sauce is to be served slightly warm but not bubbling hot.
7. Take the rice pudding out of the refrigerator, mix in the cup of whipping cream and vanilla extract, and use a fork or small whisk to loosen up the pudding until it reaches the consistency of porridge. Spoon generously in a deep dish and serve with the warm Dulce de Leche sauce poured on top.

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