ARROZ CON LECHE CLASICO (Mexican rice pudding with cinnamon and dried fruit, for six)

a 2 inch piece of cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican canela, plus a little ground cinnamon for serving (optional)

two 2 inch strips orange zest (colored rind only)


1 cup rice, preferably medium grain

4 cups milk (use whole for creamier texture)

¾ cup sugar

½ cup raisins (or other chopped dried fruit, such as cherries, mangoes, cranberries or apricots)


1.    Preliminary rice cooking:  Measure 1-3/4 cups water into a medium (3 quart) saucepan.  Add the cinnamon stick, orange zest and ½ teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.  Stir in the rice, cover and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.  Remove cinnamon and orange zest.

2.    From cooked rice to pudding:  Add the milk and sugar to the pan.  Set over medium-low heat and simmer until the mixture just begins to thicken (it should look no thicker than heavy cream), 15 to 20 minutes.  Stir in the raisins (or other dried fruit).  The pudding will thicken considerably as it cools.

 3.   Serving the rice pudding:  I think rice pudding is at its most delectable when it is slightly warm.  I suggest you either serve it freshly made and still warm from the pan or reheat it in the microwave or on the stove top, stirring gently to avoid breaking the grains.  Spoon the rice pudding into a serving dish or individual bowls, dust with cinnamon and carry to the table.  (The pudding can be made a day or two ahead through step 2. Cover and refrigerate. Cold pudding thickens, so stir in enough milk to soften it.)

from Rick Bayless, Mexico One Plate at a Time

NOTE:  Serve with Mexican tea cakes.

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