Last week, I spent the day with my friend Tara Sgroi. We started talking about how powerful the sense of smell is in the memory side of the brain. How it can instantly bring us back to a moment in time. She asked me what my strongest memory of smell is and immediately I said “burnt milk!”. So many hours spent next to the stove in a pastry shop where spilled and burnt milk are inevitable.
Just like that, Tara pulled out her camera and we made a video about arroz con leche with extra florals and spices and a tint of burnt milk.
I will share my traditional arroz con leche recipe, which only contains the basics and no burnt milk, but you can play around with it to your liking. Enjoy.
Arroz con leche
2 quarts (2 liters) whole milk
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup arborio rice
Pinch of ground cinnamon, for topping.
1. In a large pot, heat the milk, cinnamon stick, vanilla seeds and pod, and salt over medium heat until it comes to a very low simmer. Add the sugar and rice and stir to combine.
2. Keep the heat low enough that the sugar won’t burn. You want small simmering bubbles so you will need to adjust the heat up or down to achieve this. If it’s too hot, the sugar will caramelize too quickly. As the rice cooks, it will release starch and will thicken the custard. Continue cooking, stirring constantly for about an hour until the milk thickens and turns slightly caramel color.
3. Using tongs, remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla pod out of the custard. Ladle the arroz con leche into six medium bowls. Sprinkle the tops with ground cinnamon. You can eat it right away, at room temperature or chilled.