My mother-in-law, Evelina Ramos Tremolada, is the most amazing Peruvian cook. She grew up on a coffee plantation in the town of Chanchamayo, in the central Andean highland province of Junín. Chanchamayo is an area where many Italian immigrants have settled for the last 100 years. Evelina’s own father, Félix Tremolada, was originally from Milan.

Mamá Evelina, teaching the next generation of Ramos chefs!

Evelina has also lived in Piura and Lima, and has traveled all over Peru. She can make any Peruvian specialty, from any region – including chifa, ceviche, Italian-Peruvian food unique to her family and town, traditional Andean dishes, and other national favorites – and every single one is absolutely delicious. When she comes to visit us, we are treated to a vast array of dishes: secos, lomo saltado, milanesa, rice dishes, empanadas, tamales, and – perhaps most anticipated of all – her arroz con leche. The four of us can polish off an entire batch in one evening. She has to make it two or three times per visit, just to keep up with demand!

Lucky me: my very generous and patient suegra Mamá Evelina has been sharing some of her most prized recipes with me! I have learned so much from just watching her cook; and I am so thrilled to reap the benefits of her extensive Peruvian culinary expertise. During this visit, she has walked me through several of her most famous dishes, and given me tons of hints and tips. Her arroz con leche recipe is just a fraction of the knowledge I’ve gleaned from her during this visit.

My first experience with (edible) rice pudding was when I was the pastry chef at Zinc. We made brûleéd coconut-jasmine rice pudding, Chef Denise Appel’s creation. Before then, I’d only seen rice pudding in massive bowls at the diner, or little plastic tubs in the supermarket; I tried it once, and found it gelatinous, gloppy, and cardboard-flavored. I couldn’t bring myself to eat it again. But Zinc’s creamy, fragrant jasmine rice, enriched with coconut milk and a burnt sugar crust, changed my mind in a split second.

Rice pudding is found in a vast majority of world cuisines, as rice became nearly universally widespread throughout the Old World in antiquity. Thought to have originated in India, rice pudding was originally used to aid digestion and thicken other dishes; it evolved largely into a sweet dessert or porridge. Rice was introduced to Europe through Arab-occupied Spain and Sicily; then exported to Latin America by the Spanish conquistadores, where it became an indispensable component of the food culture.

Most Latin American rice puddings include sweetened milk, cinnamon, and citrus or coconut. I’ve since tried several different rice pudding versions; and while I admit I’m slightly biased – and really love Zinc’s – this is truly my favorite. I think that the pisco-soaked raisins add such a delicious flavor that I would advise against omitting them – and I’m not a “raisin person.”

Muchas gracias, Mamá Evelina, for sharing your incredible food with us!

 

Arroz con Leche / Rice Pudding
Servings Prep Time
8-10people 15minutes
Cook Time
1.25hours
Servings Prep Time
8-10people 15minutes
Cook Time
1.25hours
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2cups white rice,short grain
  • 3cups water(and extra, as needed)
  • 2each cinnamon sticks
  • 1each vanilla bean,split
  • 14 oz. evaporated milk(1 can)
  • 14oz. condensed milk(1 can, + up to one more can, to taste)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4cup granulated(to taste)
  • 1cup raisins
  • 1/2cup pisco(enough to cover raisins)
  • fewdashes Cinnamon, ground(for garnish)
Instructions
  1. Macerate the raisins in the pisco until very soft and plump (preferably overnight).
  2. Place the rice in a fine colander or sieve; rinse under cold water until the water runs clear.
  3. Bring the water to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the rice; stir until the water boils again. Do not cover.
  4. Split the vanilla bean down the middle, then scrape the pulp into the rice. Add the vanilla bean itself and cinnamon stick.
  5. Turn down the heat to a simmer. Stir frequently, scraping the bottom of the pot. Cook until the rice is thoroughly cooked and very soft (about 20-30 minutes). If the rice is not tender after 30 minutes, add water (1/2 cup or so at a time), and cook until soft.
  6. Add one can each of evaporated and condensed milk, and the whole milk. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil again, then turn heat back down to low.
  7. Drain the raisins and add (if using). Reserve the pisco. Cook for another 15 minutes or so
  8. Taste, and add up to 1 more can (a few tablespoons at a time) of condensed milk until the desired sweetness is reached. If you would like it to be sweeter, you can add granulated sugar (to taste - a teaspoon or so at a time). Also, can may also add 1 to 2 Tbsps. of pisco to taste at this point, if desired.
  9. Cook for another 5-10 minutes / until mixture reaches the desired thickness (and the alcohol evaporates).
  10. Remove cinnamon sticks and vanilla bean; pour into serving bowl or airtight container. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon; cool to room temperature. Refrigerate covered until ready to serve.
Recipe Notes

Arroz con leche keeps refrigerated for up to 5 days - but I bet it won't last that long!

Copyright © 2011 la vida comida.
Recipe by Jennifer Ramos Lorson.