Cuban Arroz Con Leche

Hispanic Community February 2021 PREMIUM
Since Asian Arroz con Leche or rice pudding was invented centuries ago, it has spread worldwide.

Each country, each region, each person leaves an impression with their style of making things. In doing so, they show who they truly are. Just as Miriam did: she put her heart into everything she did.

Almost twenty-five years ago, I was invited to dine at my Cuban boss’ house. His wife set an exquisite table that I thought she had done specially for this occasion. I learned later that she would always do so. Of course, I enjoyed the meal and her warm welcome.

Then, dessert arrived. I found it familiar when I saw it, given that I am from South America, where rice pudding was a typical dessert in my childhood. Yet, this consistent creamy white mixture placed in front of me made my mouth water. I could not understand why since I knew what rice pudding was. Maybe it was because it did not look as watery as the one I was used to eating. Eventually, I understood why. The first scoop melted in my mouth. The rice and milk made the perfect blend with the touch of lemon and cinnamon, all with the right amount of sweetness. This special Arroz con Leche was engraved upon my memory and my heart forever.

I asked her for the recipe and with her usual generosity, she gave it to me. Now, I’m sharing it with you. She used to tell me to “follow it in detail” because that is how she was, careful with the details in everything. Naturally, I tried to follow her recipe to the letter, and with practice, I got close to making it as she had done. It has never been as delicious as hers, though: her rice pudding was unique as she was. Thank you, Miriam.

I invite you to give her recipe a try:

Makes Eight Portions

½ cup rounded short rice (Valencia/Sello Rojo)

1 ½ cup of water

1 piece of lemon rind

1 cinnamon stick

1 liter of milk (2.2 lbs)

1 cup of white sugar

¼ coffee spoon of salt

One coffee spoon of vanilla essence

Cinnamon powder

Rinse the rice, cook it in the water with the lemon, and cinnamon stick at low heat, until it becomes soft (about 20 minutes) in a covered saucepan.

Uncover the saucepan, remove the cinnamon stick and add the milk, salt, and sugar. Cook at medium heat until it gets thick for about one more hour. Stir as necessary, or the mixture will stick to the bottom of the saucepan.

Serve with powder cinnamon on top.


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