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.
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!
- 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)
Arroz con leche keeps refrigerated for up to 5 days - but I bet it won't last that long!
Recipe by Jennifer Ramos Lorson.