|Barbara is the owner of Jade Luna Home Made Ice Cream, downtown main street, and sells a wide variety of homemade delicacies at the Friday Matapalo farmer’s market at Martina’s Bar. Contact her directly firstname.lastname@example.org|
Arroz con leche (rice with milk), is different from classic rice puddings in that it doesn’t contain eggs. I’ve seen and tried recipes that use canned evaporated and sweetened condensed milk, but that’s not like any arroz con leche that I’ve had here in Costa Rica. This dish is not overly sweet and is eaten not only as dessert, but as a snack or pick-me-up.
My first tries at this traditional dish were without a recipe. I knew the ingredients, but as usual, I wanted to fall back on methods that I was familiar with (like be lazy and bake it in the oven, or better yet cook it in the rice steamer). Needless to say those didn’t work out so well. I finally figured out the nuances, by asking questions of local women, and through trial and error.
What makes this dish special are the ingredients found here in the countryside. Rice is grown here. Locally grown rice, with its broken pieces, and bits of hull still attached, has a wonderfully nutty flavor. This is also cattle country. Rich, grassy milk fresh from the cow is delivered to my doorstep daily, by Carlos, in a bicycle-drawn cart. Sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, and oranges are all locally grown as well, if you source them out.
Hence the origins of the dish rice with milk, comfort food, elegant in its simplicity.
1 cup white rice rinsed well
2 cups water
Half a cinnamon stick
1 large strip of orange peel twisted to release the oil or 2 lemon leaves crushed to release the aroma
1 ½ cups raw sugar or 1 cup white sugar
6 cups whole milk
½ cup raisins
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Start with a wide, heavy bottomed pot (not cheap aluminum). Simmer the rice, water, cinnamon and cloves until most of the water is absorbed. Add the orange peel, milk, and sugar and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring almost constantly until most but not all of the milk is absorbed (the rice will absorb the rest as it sits). Add the raisins and vanilla, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes. Spoon into individual cups or serve in a terrine. I find it’s best eaten at room temperature the same day. Don’t worry, there won’t be leftovers!