Weekly Kitchen: In the mood for comfort food?

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By ANGELA McRAE, Special to The Weekly

Even with the ups and downs of supply chain issues over the past few years, we still have a ton of choices at the grocery store. Like rice. There’s white, brown, jasmine, basmati, instant, sticky, and every variety of flavored rice imaginable. My husband and I discovered we liked basmati rice a few years ago, and while any old rice is fine by us, we especially love the kind we get with our favorite Chinese takeout.

Have you ever watched rice being planted? I’d never thought much about it until a friend sent me a link to a YouTube video about a town in Japan that is finding new life by growing green tea (I’m a fan) and rice. The video—titled “Revitalizing a Japanese Tea Town” if you care to look it up—opens with footage of a contraption that operates like a small tractor designed for the rice paddy. Through some marvel of mechanization, it drops perfectly spaced rice plants into the wet ground. I was as fascinated by the rice as the tea!

I keep several varieties of rice on hand, and in addition to eating rice as a side dish with savory foods, I’ve learned to view rice as the basis for a dessert. Early each fall, I start to think about cooking comfort foods. Something rich and creamy sounded good for dessert one evening, so I decided to try a rice pudding recipe I came across in a book about one of the old department stores I love to research.

Our Snow Bear Scrapbook: Memories and Recipes from Thalhimers was written by Elizabeth Thalhimer and illustrated by her mother, Sallie Thalhimer. The book features a number of recipes once served in the tearoom of the Thalhimers store in Richmond, Virginia, and this rice pudding was said to be a favorite of both adults and children there.

But rice pudding sounded old-fashioned, and I was initially skeptical about making it. I realize that cooks of yesteryear had to get creative with their dishes, especially during World War II and rationing, but rice in a dessert? I tried it anyway, and as the Monkees used to sing, now I’m a believer.

This simple treat was fast and easy to prepare, and I love that its ingredients are almost always on hand. I used vintage glass sherbet dishes to present individual servings, and tied with colorful ribbon, these can add a bit of panache to the table at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or anytime you want to treat your family to something special.

Thalhimers Rice Pudding

1/2 cup uncooked regular rice
3 eggs, well-beaten
1-1/3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cook rice according to package directions, then combine with remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into a 9 x 9-inch pan prepared with cooking spray and bake for 40-45 minutes. Serve hot.

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