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~ An Old-Fashioned Diner-Style Baked Rice Pudding ~

IMG_1868Rice pudding is to us Northerners what banana pudding is to the Southerners -- a staple in every diner.  Speaking from lots of experience on behalf of parts of the Northeast (New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to be specific), I'm here to tell you our diner-style rice pudding is:  to die for.  Sit me in any diner and I can assure two things you can always count on:  the fork-tender meatloaf (served up with fluffy mashed potatoes and gravy), and, the rice pudding (garnished with a generous squirt of Redi-whipped cream and a maraschino cherry -- banana pudding gets meringue).  In the language of inner-circle diner eaters, we refer to this dessert as "rice cream".

Understandably, most diners have a limited dessert menu.

IMG_1822Understandably, most diners have a limited dessert menu, and, while a slice of pie is a common menu item, the pie, unless you're in a diner that is renowned for its pie, is seldom made in-house -- time and space constraints, along with cost-per-serving issues, combined with the many-times limited skills of the average diner cook, more-often-than-not prohibits a genuinely pie-perfect experience -- sometimes it's so awful not even a complimentary scoop of ice cream can come to its rescue.  'Tis sad but undeniably true -- ordering pie in a diner is a roll of the proverbial dice.

Rice pudding began showing up on diner menus in the 1920's. 

IMG_1835Enter rice pudding*.  For no apparent documented reasons, it started showing up on diner menus in the 1920's.  My best guess is this:  Besides playing well in any typical laid-back hometown-diner atmosphere, making this popular and inexpensive dessert in a big batch, in-house, was a cinch for almost anyone on the kitchen staff who could accurately measure a few ingredients. Also, a generous scoop of creamy rice pudding tasted great served warm or cold with any meal any time of the day, and, if kept stored in the refrigerator, had a several day shelf life -- it was ideally suited to the grueling early-morning-to-late-night to many times 24/7 hours most diners operate.  There's more.  Because many diner kitchens of the era consisted of a flat top griddle, rather than a stovetop, like another popular diner menu staple, macaroni and cheese, this creamy-dreamy concoction could conveniently, and without compromise, be baked in the oven.

*Note:  Rice pudding is a complicated topic and one would be hard-pressed to find a culture that does not have its own version.  To make short sense of it all, rice pudding is an ancient dish that traces its roots to China (the land of rice) and the Middle East, more specifically, a Persian dish called rice milk.  That said, it was the Romans who recognized the binding properties of eggs which added the rich thickness to the dish, meaning: turned it into a custard.  When it reached India, sugar was added which transformed it from a savory to a sweet, and, the pudding-esque version Americans enjoy today dates to the Middle Ages, with the distinction between European and American puddings and custards becoming muddled sometime in the latter 1850's.

Diner rice pudding recipes from the 1940's, 50's & 60's rock on:

IMG_18584  ounces arborio rice (about 1/2 cup)

4  ounces dark or golden raisins, your choice (about 3/4 cup)

2  12-ounce cans evaporated milk, plus enough whole milk to total 4 cups liquid (Note: Whole milk can be substituted for evaporated milk.  That said, if you've ever wondered why diner-style rice pudding has an ultra-smooth consistency, it is the result of evaporated milk.  During the World War II war years, when dairy was rationed, evaporated milk was almost always substituted for whole milk, and, after the war, many diners had no reason to switch back to milk.)

2  tablespoons vanilla extract

2  extra-large eggs

10  tablespoons granulated sugar (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons)

2  ounces salted butter (4 tablespoons)

Cinnamon-Sugar, for topping rice pudding

Redi-Whipped Cream, for garnish

maraschino cherries, for garnish

IMG_1762 IMG_1762 IMG_1762 IMG_1762 IMG_1762~Step 1.  In a 1-quart measuring container, place the evaporated milk, then add enough whole milk to total 4 cups.  In a 3-quart saucier or a 4-quart saucepan, stir together the evaporated milk, arborio rice, dark or golden raisins and vanilla extract.  Set aside for 15-20 minutes, to allow rice time to soften a bit and raisins time to plump a bit.  During this time:

IMG_1777 IMG_1777 IMG_1777 IMG_1777 IMG_1777 IMG_1777 IMG_1777 IMG_1777~Step 2.  In a 2-cup measuring container, use a fork to vigorously whisk eggs.  Add and vigorously whisk in the sugar.  Set aside about 5 minutes, then whisk again, to ensure sugar has dissolved.  In a small ramekin or bowl, melt butter in microwave, then set set aside to cool about 5 minutes. Using the fork, whisk the melted butter into the egg/sugar mixture.

IMG_1794 IMG_1794 IMG_1794~Step 3.  Place evaporated milk mixture over low heat. Stirring frequently throughout process, heat until mixture is steaming and showing signs of simmering around the perimeter of the pan.  Remove from heat.

IMG_1803 IMG_1803 IMG_1803 IMG_1803~Step 4.  Two tablespoons at a time, drizzle and whisk some of the hot evaporated milk into the egg mixture, to temper the eggs -- this will prevent them from scrambling when whisked into the hot evaporated milk mixture.  In a slow steady stream, while stirring constantly, drizzle the egg mixture into the evaporated milk mixture.  There will be a generous 6 cups of pudding mixture.

IMG_1804 IMG_1804 IMG_1804 IMG_1804~Step 5.  Transfer pudding mixture to a 2-quart casserole.  Bake on center rack of 300° oven (no higher) for 1 hour.  Almost all liquid will have been absorbed by the rice and pudding will be lightly browned in spots on top, and sort of "jiggly" too.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with Cinnamon-Sugar, and set aside about 1 1/2 hours (or longer) prior to serving warm or at room temperature.

Diner-style rice pudding gets whipped cream & a cherry:

IMG_1867Rich & creamy-dreamy, rice cream & a cherry too.  Woo-hoo! 

IMG_1873An Old-Fashioned Diner-Style Baked Rice Pudding: Recipe yields 6 cups baked rice pudding/6-12 servings.

Special Equipment List: 1-quart measuring container; 3-4-quart saucier or 4-quart saucepan; large spoon; 2-cup measuring container; fork; ramekin or small bowl; 2-quart au gratin-type casserole or any shallow 2-quart casserole

6a0120a8551282970b0240a48b239a200dCook's Note: ~ My Creamy, Orange-Kissed Arborio Rice Pudding ~.  Technically, while rice pudding is not a custard per se, this type of rice pudding is prepared in the manner of custard, which is:  a sweetened egg/milk mixture that has been cooked gently on the stovetop or baked in a low oven. Stirred custards are usually made in a double boiler, while baked custards get cooked in a warm water bath, which is not the case in most rice pudding recipes. That said, "custard" was the best term I could think of to describe its preparation.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)


Christine -- If you ever come across his recipe and are inclined to share it, I will make it and write a blog post about it. That said, for the most part, all baked rice pudding recipes, after refrigeration, can be cut into squares. ~ Melanie

My dad used to make a baked rice pudding with lemon that you cut into squares after refrigerating. Wish I had the recipe.

Carolyn -- I make this exact recipe, substituting coconut milk for evaporated milk, and butter-rum flavoring for vanilla extract. I call it "Put the Rum and the Coconut in the Rice Pudding". Coconut milk makes great rice pudding. ~ Mel.

Love,love,love rice pudding and made it often. However, I can not long have dairy or gluten. Any suggestions on how I could make it OK for me to eat. The rice and other things are fine but not the milk.. Any ideas? I'm so hungry for a good desert that I can eat once again.

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