The Proof Is In The Puddin’
A new version of rice pudding and other delicious puddings are selling out on 102 St. Mark’s Place.
When Puddin’ opened on St Mark’s Place earlier this year, 20-something chef Clio Goodman said she was offering a “grown-up” version of the dessert that’s often a baby’s first. Born into a family of serious cooks and then seasoned as a dessert chef in some of New York City’s finest restaurant kitchens, Clio cooks with a kid’s energy and a wise woman’s know-how: Her vanilla pudding, for delicious instance, could pass muster anywhere as a crème anglaise. Zagat agrees; it has already donned the desserts with a whopping 29 rating.
The tiny take-out shop has a revolving roster of puddings, pies and cakes made with pudding, and toppings, with a core of standards. Banana cream is the favorite. One customer in her late seventies walks ten blocks from her apartment nearly every day for a fix. Clio hints that she herself is partial to butterscotch, spiked with her father’s preferred brand of Scotch.
For me, her rice pudding is the hands-down winner, one of the best I’ve ever spooned up. You can really taste the rice (basmati), which is cooked separately from the custard to preserve its flavor. Try it with the crumbled ginger butter cookies that are a specialty of Clio’s mother, Hevra, and the cool, barely sweetened Hudson Valley cream, softly whipped. They enhance rather than diminish the perfection of the puddin’.
Clio’s recipe is proprietary (there’s a book in the works) but I’m happy to offer my own, burnished by nostalgia for my parents and the West Hartford Diner and enriched by my training in the French Culinary Institute. I hope it does for you and yours what it does for me. Yes, sometimes it’s a lot of work to arrive at simplicity, but the proof is in the pudding, even if you serve the whiskey on the side in a bowl of Irish-soaked raisins.
1 cup premium short-grain rice (sushi rice is great)
1 quart whole milk
1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 vanilla pod, split the long way
a few grains of salt
4 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream (organic is sublime)
2 tbsp. confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1. In a three-quart saucepan, cover rice with two cups of water and bring quickly to a boil. Simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain rice, rinse with cold water until it runs clear, then return to pot.
2. Add milk, ½ cup of the sugar, the vanilla pod, and the pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, stir once, cover, reduce heat to low, and let cook for 30 minutes.
3. Whisk the egg yolks with the other ½ cup sugar until you can no longer hear the sugar against the side of the bowl. Remove the vanilla pod from the rice pot. Add a few spoons of hot rice to the egg-sugar mixture, then transfer the mixture to the pot. Return the rice to the boil for two full minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Scrape rice into a large mixing bowl and set in a larger bowl of ice and some cold water. Stir occasionally to hasten cooling and to prevent formation of skin. Cover with plastic wrap lightly pressed down into the pudding.
4. Whip the cream to soft peaks, adding the powdered sugar and vanilla extract as you go. When the rice has cooled to room temperature (not sooner), stir in half the whipped cream to lighten. Fold in the rest, very lightly, so some streaks remain.
5. Serve warm or cold, with or without a sprinkling of cinnamon—but always ask first.
6. I like raisins but love some people who don’t, so I compromise by offering a raisin sauce on the side: ½ cup unsulphured raisins soaked for 2 hours in ½ capful of Irish whiskey, then heated briefly in a syrup made by briefly simmering ½ cup each water and raw sugar, with ½ quart vanilla bean, and 2 inches of lemon peel.
Nancy Weber is writing her 23d book—a thriller set in Greenwich Village about swinging senior chefs who arouse the wrath of a puritanical food blogger.