Chai-Spiced Arroz Con Leche with Cinnamon-Stewed Pears

Arroz Con Leche is more custard like than your standard rice pudding and when combined with Chai spices and Cinnamon-Stewed Pears is a winning and flavorful combination perfect to win over rice pudding skeptics. 
It's so nice to have my Butchie back! It's been nearly two weeks since we've had a proper baking night...and that is just TOO long!

So last night we I'm going to call it rice pudding, as I honestly cannot tell you the name of what we made. Perhaps saying we made it might even be stretch. Really, Butchie made it and I had a nice venting session. I am fairly certain that I did not chop or measure one darn thing in this recipe. Yep. [Slacker, j'accuse! --B.] But I did buy the condensed milk, and provided the cinnamon sticks. Major contributions. Huge. Epic.

For months now Butch has been lobbying for us to make a rice pudding. I've been skeptical. I have never made rice pudding, which, after last night, technically I still haven't, but at least now I have eaten rice pudding and that is a step in the right direction. For a brief mad moment I considered making it into ice cream today...only to realize that I was perhaps being too ambitious for a food I've only just tried for the first time. [Baby steps, cherie. --B.]

For the first few bites I was eying it like a five year old does Brussels Sprouts. I was leery. Skeptical. I have rarely looked at a food with so much distrust. If the pudding would just make up its mind about whether it is a solid or a liquid we would have a basis for a budding relationship. [Seriously, her FACE. It really was like giving a toddler the first taste of something. I was actually holding the spoon to her mouth. Five seconds away from making airplane noises. --B.] After a bit I enjoyed it decently, it wasn't until today, day after, that I have decided I really do enjoy rice pudding, and I especially love the pear topping we made. But that last part was never in question. Pears have never been ambiguous with me. They are a solid which can be made into a juice. That I understand.

[A note on our recipe, which is based on this one from Smitten Kitchen: arroz con leche is a little more custardy than standard rice pudding, probably because it is cooked so long and with sweetened condensed milk so that it gets really smooth and gooey. We added chai spices to ours, for extra warmth. I happen to like arroz con leche best cold for breakfast the next day, for what it's worth. --B.]

One thing I am pleased about is that it comes across rather lovely when you layer it. I decided to put some in jars and seal them up. I gave them out to a few of my friends. I love edible gifts and this was a nice way to get ahead on my holiday treats list. :)

I hope you enjoy making whatever it is that Butchie made. Haha. I promise to be more participatory the next time!

Chai-Spiced Arroz Con Leche

1 cup arborio rice
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 whole cloves
4 cups water
1 egg
3 cups whole milk
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp allspice

Soak the rice, cinnamon sticks, lemon zest and cloves in the water in a heavy saucepan for 1 hour.

After soaking, remove cloves and cinnamon sticks and bring the rice mixture to a boil on high heat, uncovered. When it starts to boil (about 5 minutes), lower the heat to medium and cook for 10 to 12 more minutes or until water is almost evaporated.

While rice is cooking, beat the egg in a bowl. Add the milk and stir well to mix. Add the egg mixture, condensed milk, salt, vanilla extract and spices to the rice and cook over medium-low heat, stirring carefully, about 25 to 35 minutes. The grains should be coming to the surface of the pudding and you'll feel some resistance when you stir. Several cups of liquid will have evaporated. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes--it will thicken considerably once taken off the heat.

Cinnamon-Stewed Pears

3 pears, not quite ripe (we used Red Bartlett), diced
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp sugar

Melt butter and sugar together, then add cinnamon and pears. Stew everything until pears are just getting soft--you don't want compote.

Layer over thickened pudding and enjoy!