Set-It-and-Forget-It Seneviratne. I’ve earned a few choice nicknames over the course of my life, but I think that one might be the most apt. (Samantha the Panther was probably the least.) See that pot that’s bone dry and smoking because someone put water to boil an hour ago? Who did that? What about those nuts, burnt to an unrecognizable crisp? I like to think that my absentmindedness is charming. But possibly not.
Milk is the easiest thing to forget on the stove. We’ve all done it. Within seconds, milk is foaming up and over the sides of the pan, scorching and sticking to the stovetop like bubblegum to a shoe. But there is an upside to this common kitchen disaster. Good luck! Like rain on your wedding day, boiled-over milk is a symbol of good things to come.
It’s a Sri Lankan tradition to boil milk over on New Year’s Day. It’s supposed to bring prosperity and plenty. My mom used to do it in our house when we were growing up. I could tell that it made her nervous. And it made my dad cringe at the mess. The things we do for tradition. And prosperity.
Kiribath, or milk rice, is also a Sri Lankan New Year’s necessity—like Hoppin’ John in the American South and sauerkraut in Eastern Europe. Kiribath is rice cooked with coconut milk until it forms a mushy semi-solid block. It doesn’t sound all that appetizing but I assure you, it’s delicious.
Instead of kiribath, I’ve made you some rice pudding. A new tradition. I made it with brown sugar and a real vanilla bean for deep comfort. The raisins are soaked in rum. They were like that when I found them, drunk and plump after a night of New Year’s Eve revelry in the kitchen pantry. Craze-ins.
Be sure to let the milk boil over for a second while you’re cooking. Then get someone else to clean it up.
Happy New Year, Friends! I wish you all the best in 2015.
Brown Sugar Rice Pudding with Rum Raisins
Makes 2 cups
3 cups milk
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sushi or arborio rice
1/4 cup brown sugar
a pinch kosher salt
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup raisins (I used half golden and half Thompson)
1/2 cup rum
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, rice, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla bean and seeds. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Immediately decrease the heat to medium heat to maintain a low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the vanilla bean.
2. Whisk the egg yolk in a small bowl. Add about 2 tablespoons of the hot milk mixture into the yolk while whisking. Repeat this process a few more times. Pour the mixture back into the pot and set it over low heat. Cook, stirring, until the pudding has thickened slightly, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Immediately pour the pudding into a clean bowl. Let the pudding cool slightly. It will thicken up a little more as it sits.
3. In a small saucepan, bring the raisins and the rum to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook for 2 minute, stirring, then turn off the heat and let the mixture stand, covered, until the raisins are plump, about 10 minutes.
4. Serve the pudding topped with the rum-soaked raisins. It’s nice served warm or chilled.