Friday, February 06, 2009

Cooking Disappointments

My new oven was delivered nearly a week ago. Until last night I had not turned it on once. I hadn't even opened the door to stare at its shiny interior. It was a little sad. Day after day I fired up my new power burner to heat water for coffee or tea. I warmed leftovers on the simmer burner. But the oven was cold.

I was faced with an inexplicable loss of inspiration. There were so many things I wanted to make, but none of the recipes seemed to fit my week: M. was out of town. I was home alone with my leftovers. I had cookies to eat. I wasn't in the mood for muffins. The potluck party I was invited to was cancelled.

And then last night I decided I simply must make something. Ideally it would be something that M. might like a taste of when he returned from his road trip. Ideally it wouldn't be too sinful.

I got stuck on the idea of rice pudding. This week I have been reading Laurie Colwin's More Home Cooking. One of the opening essays is about a post holiday dinner party that ends with a "creamy and consoling lemon rice pudding." I was intrigued, and became more intrigued when The Kitchn featured Ms. Colwin's rice pudding recipe this week and called it "heavenly." I had arborio rice in the pantry, milk, and lemon in the fridge, and a bright orange le cruset just dying to be used for the project.

The recipe calls for cooking the rice, milk, a bit of sugar, and lemon peel in a 250 degree oven for two and a half hours, stirring every forty-five minutes. Sadly, the two hours in the oven was the zinger for me -- the oven got to be on for nearly the entire evening, I would check in periodically, and at the end I'd have something sweet, warm, and comforting.

That is not what happened. First of all I got bored. Two and a half hours is a long time in the oven for pudding. I ended up munching happily on a cookie about an hour in to the project. Finally, the pudding was done. I dipped my spoon in and waited for the heavenly taste of a perfect lemon rice pudding. I was seriously underwhelmed. The recipe calls for adding the juice of one lemon at the end. I added the juice of two lemons, plus a pinch of salt, hoping for an additional jolt of acid and zing. I still wasn't happy. So I added some cinnamon, and a teaspoon of vanilla. This made it better, but not great. I ate some warm spoonfuls and decided to let it cool overnight. According to Colwin, it must be chilled.

But once chilled the pudding was simply cold. It had lost whatever comfort it had, and now was bland and uninteresting. It reminded me of the kind of food you might want when you are sick and needing something plain but with some healthful nutrients. But I am not sick. And now I am a little disappointed. I was hoping for more. Perhaps I don't really like rice pudding? I'm not really sure. Perhaps M. does? Somehow I doubt it.


Sarah said...

A, I love rice pudding. It's comforting on so many levels, and it's disappointing on so many levels mainly because no one else will eat it with me because of the "texture". I feel your pain and now you just have to redeem yourself with a pot roast or something..

Anonymous said...

oh no! we'll reschedule the potluck party soon.

and i'm sorry the rice pudding wasn't so great. i have fond memories of junket, which is a packaged custard mix. my great-grandmother used to make it in these beautiful, small glass bowls. i loved looking in the refrigerator and finding my own individual serving.

maybe you will try again?