There is something very appealing to me about foods that are a different color than intended or commonly seen. I don't know what it is, but something about the concept of eating something like, say... a blue orange, feels a little rebellious towards nature. I'm particularly fond of black colored foods because they more often than not look like something you really shouldn't eat, which makes me feel like even more of a mutinous cook when I can make it look - and taste - ultra yummy. Also, black food is metal as fuck.
The other day I found myself at Whole Foods [simply because it was on my chore route] rummaging through rice and rice-like options to make the most splendid Earl Grey rice pudding. I really just wanted to pick up some cheap, plain, long-grain white rice, but it couldn't possibly be that simple when Whole Foods is involved. The only option out of 3,500 that they were entirely out of was exactly what I was looking for. As I stood with my neck craned, trying to focus my bleary eyes on the 4 digit price tag of some sort of organic, fair-trade pearl quinoa alternative for the goosefoot sensitive, I almost lost hope entirely. What was I going to do? I know nothing about any of these mystery grains and I certainly don't have time to learn about all of them RIGHT NOW while my ankles are being destroyed by the impatient cart of some pissy looking mom in yoga pants.
And that's when I spotted it on the shelf... Glistening like black tar heroin, a whole bag of the most beautiful black rice I've ever seen. Black rice?! How have I never cooked with this gorgeous grain before? And the price wasn't outrageous! It was like a shimmering oasis in a vast, expensive, arrogant desert. I felt inspired and renewed! That was, until I showed it to Kris and he compared it to hamster poop.
No matter! I got over it as I'm really hard to gross out and I had a vision that could not be ignored. Earl Grey rice pudding? I don't think so. More like Earl BLACK rice pudding. Oh man. That's cute.
Earl Black Rice Pudding
1 1/2 cup water
3/4 cup black heirloom rice [White rice works, too!]
3 bags Earl Grey tea
2 cups milk, divided
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
First thing we need to do is rinse the rice. If you're cooking with plain white rice, feel free to skip this step.
I knew nothing about black heirloom rice when I grabbed this bag and didn't think to rinse it first in my trial batch - huge mistake. This rice is a lot more starchy than its white counterpart, and turned my first batch into a pungent, sticky mess. Oops. Guess that's why it pays to do research... but don't you worry about that. I've got that shit on lock. Let me make all of the mistakes here.
Rinse your rice by placing it in a bowl and filling it with cold water. Run a clean hand through the rice a few times, agitating it until the water becomes a murky grey - It'll get even darker than pictured. Carefully pour out the starch-laden water, and refill the bowl with clean, cold water. Repeat this process 3 or 4 times, or until the water remains significantly clean after agitation. Strain your squeaky clean rice and put it aside.
Pour 1 1/2 cups water into a medium saucepan, and place two of your tea bags in the water. I tie the tea tags around the handle of the pot because I'm certain that my gas stove is actively plotting to light my house on fire someday, and that's just making the job a little too easy.
Bring the water to a boil and dump your rinsed rice right in there. Don't be shy. Reduce your heat to low, cover your pot with a tightly fitting lid and let it simmer until cooked. White rice tends to take about 20 minutes, but I find that black rice takes a bit longer - about 30 minutes or so should do the trick. Check to make sure that all of the water has been completely absorbed and that the rice is tender. Black rice also has a bit more of an al dente feel to it, and a much heavier, earthier scent, so expect that right away. It's definitely a bit more hearty than white rice, but this recipe really does lend well to both varieties. Try both types to see which one your fondest of!
After your rice is cooked, place it in a medium saucepot and add 1 1/2 cups milk, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/4 tsp salt. This is where you'll be using your 3rd tea bag, but I've got a fancy little tea infuser that I have filled with a really lovely loose leaf Earl Grey, and will be using as my stirring spoon in the next few steps. If you have a similar setup, I recommend this method as the stirring really aids the tea in its steeping process, especially as the pudding thickens. If not, just tie your tea bag to the handle in the same way that you did a few steps back and let it steep as before.
Cook over medium heat until it thickens and becomes creamy. This should only be about 15-20 minutes, but don't think that you can just wander off while your poor little pudding cooks all by itself. Stir it frequently and monitor the heat... too much heat will cause it to separate, and too little won't allow it to thicken. After it thickens, remove your tea bag, give it cab fare and promise to call it real soon.
Whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup of milk with the egg and slowly pour the mixture into the pot, stirring rapidly while pouring. It's important to stir quickly and constantly while incorporating the egg because if you don't, you'll end up with strings of cooked egg throughout your pudding. While this doesn't affect the flavor, it's pretty nasty to look at.
Continue to stir constantly while cooking for another 2 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and stir in 1 tbsp butter and 1 tsp vanilla extract until the butter has melted like a goddamn dream. This is my favorite part! Oh yum.
And then there was pudding! Grate a bit of fresh nutmeg on top and dig the fuck in. It's equally delicious hot or cold, with whipped cream or plain, out of a teacup with a tiny silver spoon or out of the jar in shameful fistfuls in the middle of the night, illuminated by the glow of the fridge and deep in the throes of an Ambien-induced snack attack. I mean, whatever suits you.
I hope you've learned something today, whether it's the fact that black rice exists in this world or that Ambien makes you an insatiable munch machine. If you learned something about cooking, that's pretty rad, too. Shoot me an email over at Jennie@littlemothcurios.com. I'd love to hear from you!