When I was in college, surrounded by people from all over the United States (and the world, for that matter), I learned something that made me incredibly sad… that Coney Island restaurants are not something that exist everywhere! If you’re not from Michigan (these restaurants primarily exist in the Mitten, I guess), then you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about. For starters, they are EVERYWHERE in Michigan – there are probably 10 within 2 miles of my house, quite literally. They are essentially diners, and their most popular food is the coney dog (a hot dog covered in chili, mustard, and onions – but please do not call them chili dogs). In fact, coney dogs (and Coney Island restaurants) are so popular that my husband and I actually have a large number of photos from our wedding day, in front of the two of the original Coney restaurants in Detroit! Kind of odd, but… not, really. At least not for people who know and love a Coney Island!
Anyways, for as long as I can remember, one of my very favorite things to get at a Coney Island was rice pudding – cold (never warm), no raisins (raisins ruin lives, and dreams), no whipped cream (unnecessary), and cinnamon on the side. Whether it was just my mom and I eating lunch at a Coney, or the whole family – we would always order a bowl or two of rice pudding to end our meal. Something about the creamy, not-too-sweet, chewiness of the pudding was just too good to resist!
I finally decided I needed to try my hand at making it – and I must say, my first try was awfully spot-on!
Creamy Vanilla Bean Rice Pudding
makes about 8 dessert servings
1 cup of arborio rice
2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
half of one vanilla bean*
*If you’ve never dealt with a vanilla bean before, simply cut a slit down one side of the bean. Gently hold the bean open with one hand, and use the back of the knife to scrape the teeny tiny beans out of it.
1.) Add rice, salt, and water to a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Bring the pot to a boil; reduce to a simmer, cover the pot, and let it simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 10 minutes, the water should be almost completely absorbed.
2.) Add the whole milk, heavy cream, sugar, and the seeds from the half vanilla bean to the pot, and stir to combine. Let it come up to a boil, and immediately reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender and the milk and cream are mostly absorbed. You want to stop cooking it when it’s just a bit more soupy than you want the final (chilled) product to be.
3.) Let the pudding cool for a while at room temp, then transfer to a bowl or storage container – press some saran wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding, and then cover the bowl or container, and refrigerate.
The rice pudding is definitely best once it’s had a chance to thoroughly chill (at least 6 hours, better if you can chill it overnight). However, you can certainly eat it warm, if you prefer! You can top it with whatever strikes your fancy, but my favorite topping it just a generous dash of cinnamon.
How do you people survive without Coney Islands??