True story: this was supposed to be an ice cream flavor. I think the tides are finally turning! I’m wearing tights all the time–sometimes even a scarf. There’s snow in the mountains, and I’m having a hard(er than usual) time getting out of bed in the morning. WHO KNOWS if I’m done churning loads and loads of dairy delights for the season, but if you’re sick of ice cream, look! It’s dessert that has milk in it, sometimes eggs, it’s eaten with a spoon, and it’s not ice cream–I know, right?
In fact, it’s like a warm blanket for your insides: starchy, kind of rich, fragrant, specked with vanilla bean and some thyme because I can’t resist the extra-ness of herbs. I have a hard time thinking of anything that couldn’t be improved or made more interesting with a sprig of tarragon or a sprinkle of fresh mint.
In any case, if you aren’t on board with that, it shouldn’t stop you from making plain old vanilla bean rice pudding and topping it with some roasted grapes. Or not! The scale of culinary strangeness is thiissss (I have long arms) big.
This train starts like any other rice pudding train. You will notice that almond milk isn’t Jon-Bon-Jovi’s-teeth-white… And if you care about how your rice pudding looks, any kind of milk you’re into will do. I just happen to be in a really, really committed relationship with unsweetened vanilla almond. (Who loves ya, baby? Be home soon.)
Oh, and there’s vanilla bean and fresh thyme. If you think that sounds mellow and fragrant and sort of woodsy-herbal, you’re right.
Also, grapes. Have you ever roasted grapes? They get soft and squishy and wrinkly and a little caramelized on the bottom (or both sides, if you flip ‘em). I first tried them with polenta and chicken sausage, and it was a delight… Dinner or dessert–either is a good time for roasted, juicy, warm fruit. And did you know that fall is grape season?
Rice pudding needs a watchful eye and lots of stirring, but I don’t mind. Hopefully you don’t either. Put on some good music! May I suggest Grimes? Forget Miley; everyone pay attention to Grimes. GIRLCRUSHING hard over here.
One delicious album of indie space alien synth-pop later, you have dessert! You have it so good, my friend.
Vanilla Bean and Thyme Rice Pudding with Roasted Grapes
(adapted from this)
2 cups red or black grapes
Grapeseed oil (or another mildly flavored cooking oil), for roasting
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped finely, divided use
1/2 cup arborio rice
2 1/2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped, pod reserved
1/4 cup white sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg yolk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put the grapes in a glass baking dish (I left them in little bunches with stems, but that’s just for looks) and drizzle with about a tablespoon of oil and sprinkle about half of the chopped thyme over them. Roast in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until wrinkly, soft and caramelized (but not burnt) on the bottom. Remove from oven and set aside.
While grapes are roasting make the pudding:
Add the rest of the thyme, along with vanilla bean scrapings, to the sugar in a medium bowl. Rub thyme and vanilla into the sugar with your hands to make thyme-vanilla sugar.
In a large saucepan, combine the rice, milk, salt, sugar mixture and scraped vanilla bean pod and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Lower heat and continue cooking, stirring often, until the rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean pod.
Whisk together the heavy cream and egg yolk in a large bowl, then slowly add all of the hot rice mixture while whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until the it boils and thickens, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and cool a bit before topping with roasted grapes and serving. Serves 2 and is easily doubled to serve 4 or so–just double everything but the egg yolk.