I had to hit the web to figure out what to do with some of my herbs this week.
I received three, fresh bay leaves. Hmmm.
I had never used a fresh (rather than dried) bay leaf before. I knew that dried bay leaves were good in things like soup and stew, and that they imparted flavor during cooking, but that they needed to be removed before serving. But what about a fresh bay leaf?
It turns out that you use it the same way.
But the funny thing about the Internet is that it provides both really normal suggestions (“make a tomato sauce” and “roast a chicken”) alongside really unusual ones (“make a rice pudding – trust me”).
And I am always drawn to the unusual ones.
As if using bay leaves in my rice pudding was not unusual enough, I decided to give my rice pudding an extra twist by using wild rice instead of a more traditional pudding variety. Wild rice is actually a seed, rather than a grain. That’s awesome for me, because it means that there is more protein and fewer carbs in wild rice than in white, or even brown (whole), rice.
I also decided to use whole milk, which is a huge departure for me. I very much prefer to use low-fat or skim milk in all of my recipes. However, my husband and I BOTH noticed that we were running low on milk, and EACH of us separately stopped at the store on our ways home from work to get more. Which left us with FOUR gallons of whole milk and only one member of our household (the 13-month old) to drink it. The cats volunteered to pitch in, but someone else was going to have to do something with all of that whole milk.
This recipe is almost embarrassingly easy, although it does take a long time. Patience is key. I started the pudding when I arrived home from work (6 p.m.) and finished it when the kids when to bed (8 p.m.). Thankfully, the first hour and a half required almost no effort; I literally left the pot on the back burner while I made the kids dinner, cleaned the kitchen, gave the kids baths, read them stories, watched a television show (our only one of the day – we believe in being active!), and put them to bed. Only the final ten minutes were hands-on.
1 cup of uncooked wild rice
4 cups of whole milk
3 bay leaves
2 egg whites
Maple syrup (to taste)
Cinnamon (to taste)
Put the rice, milk, and bay leaves in a pot on the stove. Cook, covered, on low for 90 minutes. Check it every so often to make sure it is just simmering, rather than boiling or not bubbling at all. It will remain very liquidy for almost the entire cooking time. But it will start to thicken at the end.
After 90 minutes, almost all of the milk should be absorbed (though it won’t seem quite “pudding-y” yet), and the wild rice should be plump and open. At this point, stir in the egg whites very slowly (to ensure they don’t scramble).
Keep stirring constantly for the next five to ten minutes over the same low heat; the pudding will thicken. Be sure to stir constantly and really keep an eye on it, because as the pudding thickens, it could burn if you’re not careful. Stop stirring and remove the pot from the heat when the pudding reaches ALMOST the consistency you would like. It will thicken further upon standing for a few minutes off the heat.
Remove the bay leaves and serve with a drizzle (about 1 teaspoon for a ½ cup serving or 2 teaspoons for a 1 cup serving) of maple syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
The complex flavor of the bay-spiked pudding itself is glorious; adding the maple syrup at the end allows you to control exactly how much sweetness you want (and adds something nice to the presentation). The wild rice gives the pudding a welcome bit of color and crunch compared to a more traditional version.
This was a weird, risky recipe, for sure, but it turned out really well. I’ll have a hard time using fresh bay leaves for anything else in the future!