Arroz con Leche

Cuban Rice Pudding

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Sometimes the simplest things are best. I have tasted and tested several different versions of Cuban rice pudding. Some recipes are quite complex and include cream, milk, condensed milk, evaporated milk, and long periods of constant stirring and fussing. The best technique for making rice pudding I have found is the straightforward one suggested by chef and award-winning cookbook author Josefa “Jo” Gonzales-Hastings in her cookbook La Habana Café. Gonzalez-Hasting was born in Cuba and came to Florida with her parents in 1966. The family opened the Habana Café in Gulfport, Florida, in 1997. The restaurant and its chef have developed a loyal clientele and gained national recognition for serving high-quality, authentic Cuban food.

This pudding recipe is adapted from Jo’s. For variety, I sometimes add raisins or pineapple to the pudding to give it a tropical touch.

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Ingredients

  • cups whole milk
  • ¾ cup medium-grain rice (such as Valencia or Arborio)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican canela
  • 1 strip orange zest 1 strip lime zest
  • teaspoon salt
  • teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup raisins, plumped in 2 tablespoons each hot water and rum, then drained; or 1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, well drained (optional)
  • Ground cinnamon

Method

In a saucepan, combine the milk, rice, sugar, cinnamon stick, and orange and lime zests. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until the milk comes to a slow boil. Cover and reduce the heat to very low. If you have a flame tamer, use it. Simmer the pudding, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened and the rice is very tender, about 1 hour. Stir in the vanilla and raisins or pineapple, if using. Serve the pudding warm or chilled, sprinkled lightly with ground cinnamon.