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Monday, December 20, 2010

"Cooking With Ai Mei" - Arroz Con Leche

(Photo Credit: Creativegan.net Gracias!)
Sure, treats like Hot Chocolate are great during these cold Holidays, but I prefer something else. Arroz con Leche, which translates to "Rice Pudding" (literally, rice with milk). It is one of the most common desserts in nearly all Latin American countries. The origin of this dessert is unknown, but most likely was brought over to Latin America from Spain. There are very many variations of this dessert, but if you want the simplest form, its just milk and rice. Here is my version with variations we usually make.

■ Rice, any type (1 cup)
■ Milk, (2½ - 3 cups)
■ Water, (1 cup)
■ Sugar, (1½ - 2 cups)
■ Vanilla Extract, (1 teaspoon)
■ Cinnamon Stick, 1
■ Ground Cinnamon

  1. In a saucepan, bring 1 cup of water to boil on medium-heat. Throw in 1 stick of cinnamon.
  2. Wash 1 cup of rice and pour it into the saucepan and reduce the heat to low and let simmer. Stir frequently to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Its important to boil the rice in water before adding the milk, it will speed up the process to soften the rice.
  3. Add the 2½ cups of milk to the saucepan, stirring frequently on low-heat. As the rice absorbs the milk you can add more if you you want a more liquid consistency. Let simmer for about 10 - 15 minutes and add 1½ - 2 cups of Sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (or add both to your liking).
  4. Let simmer for about 10 - 15 more minutes, or until rice is tender and its reached a consistency you like.
Now, serve nice and hot with some ground cinnamon on top. You can also leave it out and let it cool and eat it that way too, which is the way I prefer :)

Variations: With the recipe above, we sometimes add raisins which we soak in rum (Flor De Caña, Gran Reserva). Also, we sometimes add some butter, nutmeg, we add orange and.or lemon peel during step one and remove it around step 3. Other variations around Latin America include the addition of sweetened condensed milk, which replaces or combines the sugar; adding coconut milk instead of regular white milk; the addition of nutmeg, lemon or orange zest and crushed pineapple is also common. 
I hope you guys try this and enjoy it. This dessert is readily available to buy at many stores, but when YOU make it, you get a great treat and satisfaction. Oh, and bragging rights! :) I hope to have more of these "Cooking With Ai Mei" posts in the future. 

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