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Spring is Coming

Several lovely, sunny warm days have convinced me that spring is coming.  I have to confess that I am not a huge seafood lover.  It’s not that I hate it, but it’s definitely not comfort-food.  I am most likely to want it in the summer when it’s hot and I want a meal that’s very light and fresh.  Summer’s not here yet, but these first days of spring have made me feel like breaking out the summery menus and that includes fish.  Whole Foods had great-looking artichokes the other day so I picked a couple up.  Artichokes, fresh fish and simple, savory muffins seemed like just the thing.  The artichokes and the muffins worked out great.  The fish…not so much.  Unfortunately, we didn’t know the fish monger down the street is closed on Mondays.  We didn’t feel like schlepping back to Whole Foods, let alone clear across town to the other fish store, so we decided to try the fish from the little market across the street.  Fortunately, we’d had a big lunch and the artichokes were pretty big.  Although I cooked the fish, we didn’t end up eating it – it just didn’t taste good.  The super-simple cooking technique I used absolutely depends on having the very best fish.  Not that I’d ever advocate aiming for less than the best, but, if by some chance you end up with an imperfect piece of fish, at least if you’re going to season it heavily, or put a bunch of sauce over or something then maybe you’ll have something to distract you from the less-than-perfect fish.

Artichokes were our first course (since the fish, theoretically, cooks in about the time it takes to eat the artichokes).  I like to flavor the cooking water for the artichokes with salt, lemon and coriander seeds.  Bring a pot of water to a boil (big enough to hold your artichokes comfortable, although they don’t need to be submerged).  When the water’s boiling add plenty of salt (about the same amount you’d add for cooking pasta –  I use about 3-4 tbs. for an 8 qt. pot), squeeze in the juice from half a lemon then toss in the squeezed lemon-half, and throw in a handful of coriander seeds.  Trim the stems off your artichokes (if you want) and trim the tops of the leaves off (again, optional).  Simmer the artichokes for 40-60 minutes.  The time will vary depending on the size of your artichokes.  You can tell they’re ready when the leaves towards the middle wiggle easily when you prod them with your finger (or a utensil).  My husband likes his artichokes with plain, melted butter.  My favorite is with Hollandaise sauce, but when it’s just the two of us I more often make mayonnaise (recipe below) because it’s quicker, easier and can be stored for a couple of days.

I have to thank my cousin Liz for teaching me this ultra-easy method for cooking fish.  No fault of hers that today’s fish wasn’t edible.  I’ve used this technique successfully many time and seen her do so many more.  You can use either fillets or steaks for this, but I wouldn’t use whole fish.  Rinse your fish in cold water and pat it dry with a paper towel.  Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper then put it skin-side down (if you’re using fillets) in a baking pan (I prefer to use glass or ceramic rather than metal).  Dot the top with butter (I like to be generous, but you can be stingy if you want).  If you can’t bear to cook with butter, use olive oil, but I like the flavor from the butter.  Pop it in the middle of an oven pre-heated to 400°.  Cook it for a while, but don’t overcook it.  It can go from not done to overcooked quite quickly so pay attention.  I can’t give you precise times because the times will vary widely depending on the type, freshness and thickness of your fish.  Unless you are using an extremely thin, delicate fish like sole, it will typically take at least 10 minutes and may take 20 or even a bit longer.  If your fish has substantial variation in thickness (as it might for example, if you end up with a fillet from near the tail end of a large fish like salmon), you may want to do what Liz does which is to cut off portions of fish and take them out of the oven as they’re ready while leaving thicker parts of the fish to cook a bit longer.  It doesn’t result in a very elegant presentation, but does mean every bit of the fish is cooked perfectly.  So how do you tell if it’s done?  Again, it varies a lot by fish and also by how cooked you like your fish.  For darker fleshed fishes like salmon, you may prefer your fish a little underdone.  For most white-fleshed fishes it’s done as soon as it is opaque throughout.  If you leave it until it “flakes easily” as most cookbooks instruct, you’ll probably find it overcooked.

Recipe:  Mayonnaise

Source: The Way to Cook by Julia Child

The Way to Cook by Julia Child

1 whole egg
2 egg yolks (Don’t throw the whites out! Put them in the freezer and when you’ve saved enough make an angel food cake.)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2-3 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2-2 cups oil (I like to use grapeseed oil because it has similar health characteristics to olive oil – Omega-3s and such – but is essentially flavorless so it will yield a nice, light, lemony mayonnaise.)

Put the egg, egg yolks and mustard into your blender (or food processor) and blend briefly (if you don’t have a machine, you can definitely do it by hand, just beat vigorously with a whisk).  Add 1-2 tsp. of the lemon juice and the salt.  Blend again.  Turn on the blender and pour the oil in very slowly.  Once you’ve added 1 1/2 cups of the oil, stop and taste.  You can add a little more of whatever you think it needs.  I almost always add extra lemon juice.  You can continue streaming in some more oil if you want – it will thin the mayo a bit.  You can keep this in the fridge for a couple of days, but not much more.

Recipe: Basic Muffins

2 cups sifted flour (sift before measuring)
2 tbs. sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 cup milk (preferably whole)
1/4 cup (1/2 of a standard-sized stick in the US) melted butter

Preheat the oven to 400° and grease 12 muffin cups well.  Sift together the flour (yes, this is the second time you’ll sift it), sugar, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl.  Beat the egg.  Add the milk and melted butter to it.  Stir the liquid into the dry ingredients.  Stir just enough to combine.  Your batter will be thick and very lumpy.  That’s good.  If you stir enough to get out all the lumps your muffins will be terrible.  Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups.  Fill each cup about 1/2-2/3 full.  Bake for about 25 minutes (they’ll be a lovely golden brown color) and serve fresh.  You aren’t going to get big, puffy, tall muffins, but they should have a nice light texture, crusty exterior and be a perfect accompaniment for a light meal.

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Not much cooking tonight thanks for a dinner invitation from the upstairs neighbor/landlord. My contribution was a simple salad. Mixed greens, cherry tomatoes (the only kind that have any texture/flavor at all this time of year) and a few dried cherries dressed with this quick and easy mustard vinaigrette. Put a teaspoon or so of your favorite mustard (smooth is probably better than whole-grain) in a small bowl (cup, measuring cup, or whatever is convenient). Add a little salt and fresh ground pepper. Squeeze a clove of garlic through a garlic press into the bowl (if you don’t have a garlic press just chop it fine). Add a few tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar. Use a small whisk to blend the ingredients then slowly stream in 1/4-1/2 cup of good olive oil, beating steadily. Your dressing should emulsify (turn into a smooth-ish brown goo). Taste it and add more of whatever you think it needs. If it doesn’t emulsify, don’t worry about it, just give it a good stir before you put it on the salad. Et voila (as our hosts might say).

pot stickers

锅贴 - guotie (pot stickers)

I found myself craving Chinese food today for the first time since we moved back from China.  Wow!  Since I was most definitely NOT craving Chinese-American I decided the better part of valor was to make it myself.  The first trick was acquiring the ingredient.  I am sure that in Chinatown we’ll be able to find a grocery store that carries everything we were looking for, but our itinerary for the day did not include a trip into Boston.  Out here in the ‘burbs we’re a bit limited but we made do.  Ground pork, Napa cabbage, ginger, green onions…all no problem.  Seasonings, though…that’s where the going got tough.  Whole Foods had sesame oil and quite a range of organic soy sauces.  Unfortunately the soy sauces were all tamari style.  Definitely sub-optimal for Chinese food.  They had not one Chinese style soy sauce.  Shame on them!  Also no Chinese black vinegar and only Japanese mirin for cooking wine.  The Star market at least had tiny bottles of Lee Kum Kee which is an adequate-ish Chinese-style soy sauce.  Not great but we decided it would do.  Still dissatisfied and vinegar-less we made one more try.  Formaggio Kitchen, one of my favorite stores (the original branch of which happens to be just down the street from me), came through with good-quality Chinese soy sauce in both light and dark varieties.  Yay!  Still no vinegar or wine but at least we had the essentials.

Back home the cooking began.  My husband kneaded dough while I chopped and mixed.  If you want to try this, you’ll definitely want a kitchen scale.  Here’s the recipe (more-or-less) as I learned it from Zhou Chunyi in her hutong kitchen cooking school, Hutong Cuisine,  in Beijing.

Recipe

100g ground pork
100g Chinese cabbage (Napa)
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped scallion (white and light green parts)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. light soy sauce
1 tsp. Chinese yellow wine (substitute dry sherry)
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. peanut oil (or other cooking oil)

125g flour
60g water

To make the dough, mix the flour and water together with your hands, then knead on a smooth surface until the dough is very smooth and elastic (about 5-10 minutes).  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set aside to rest for at least 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, shred the cabbage very fine.  Put it in a bowl and toss with the salt.  Set aside for 10 minutes.  Chop the ginger (don’t forget to peel it!) and scallions.  Mix the pork, ginger, scallions, soy sauce and wine in a bowl.  Make sure you always stir in the same direction.  Squeeze as much water as you can out of the cabbage, making sure to keep the water.  Add the water 1/3 at a time to the pork mixture, stirring each time (still in the same direction).  Add the cabbage, sesame oil and peanut oil to the pork mixture and keep stirring.

To assemble the jiaozi, roll the dough into a cylinder then cut it into 16 discs of equal size.  Keep the cut pieces covered with plastic wrap while you work to keep them from drying out.  Use a rolling-pin (or other smooth cylindrical object) to roll one disc at a time into a circle about 3-4 inches in diameter.  I find that the dough often gets kind of squished when I cut it.  Rolling each piece into a little ball before rolling out can help keep it more circular.  Spoon a generous tablespoon of filling into the middle of the circle of dough.  Lift the edges of the circle up to meet each other and pinch them together as demonstrated here.

You have three choices for how to cook your dumplings.  The way they’re most often served in northern China is boiled.  Bring a big pot of a water to a boil (you can probably get away with a 4 qt. saucepan, but larger is even better).  When the water is boiling, put your dumplings in.  Give them a gentle stir to make sure they’re not sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Cover them and let them boil for 8 minutes.  Drain and eat.  Your second option is steaming.  The details will vary a tiny bit depending on the kind of steamer you have, but basically, bring some water to the boil in the bottom of your steamer-contraption.  But the dumplings in the steamer basket.  Put that in the pot and cover.  Steam for 8 minutes.  The final option is a combination boil/steam/fry that results in what you are probably familiar with as pot stickers.  Put a little oil into a frying pan (preferably not non-stick) that has a lid and is big enough to hold all your dumplings.  The oil should be enough to coat the bottom of the pan quite generously.  Put in enough water that it will come about 1/3 of the way up the sides of the dumplings (probably about 1/2 inch or a bit less).  Bring the water to a boil.  Put the dumplings in and cover.  After about 5 minutes take a look.  If there is still a lot of water in the pan, uncover for a bit to let the water boil off.  When the water has boiled off, put the lid back on and allow the dumplings to fry for a couple of minutes.  The total cooking time should, again, be about 8 minutes.  You’ll need to use a spatula to gently loosen the dumplings from the pan.  Once you’re done, I’d advise putting water in the pan right away to help loosen up the stuck on bits so it will be easier to clean.

Boiled dumplings will come out with a very soft, slippery skin.  The steamed version will come out with a chewier, more substantial feeling skin.  Fried will come out much like the steamed version but with a nice brown, crisp bottom.  Yum!

Traditionally the dumplings are just dipped in Chinese black vinegar.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any.  Instead I made a dipping sauce by putting a little sliced ginger and scallion in a mixture of about equal parts light soy sauce and vinegar.  I used champagne vinegar which was the lightest vinegar I had on hand.  If I’d had it, I’d have used the white rice vinegar you can get in the Asian aisle at any supermarket, but I didn’t buy it this afternoon because I was hoping to track down black vinegar.  I let this sauce sit for 10 minutes or so to let the vinegar and scallion flavors infuse into the liquid.  It was pretty tasty.

One recipe (16 dumplings) makes a good meal for one adult.  I made four recipes worth today – enough for me and my husband to both have a good dinner with some left over.  Cook only as many jiaozi as you want to eat.  Cooked jiaozi don’t leave over too well.  The good news is that uncooked jiaozi can be frozen to cook later.  Lay them out on a cookie sheet so they’re not touching.  Cover them with plastic wrap and put them in the freezer over night.  Once they’re good and frozen, take them off the cookie sheet and put them in a ziploc bag.  Cook them straight from the freezer using any of the methods suggested above – just give them about 2 minutes longer.  If you’re doing the pot sticker method, use a little more water because you want them to boil/steam for longer, not to fry for longer.

真的好吃! (really yummy!)

Mom’s Piquant Chicken

My dad was the cook in the family when I was growing up.  My mom did some baking, but she cooked dinner only on my dad’s birthday or when he was out of town.  Invariably the first night a parent (either one) was out of town we’d go out for pizza.  When mom was out of town we’d then proceed to have all sorts of things she didn’t especially care for – hamburgers, tacos, etc.  When dad was out of town we’d eat spaghetti (with sauce dad had made and put in the freezer) or whatever he’d cooked for us and left in the fridge.  If he was out of town for long enough (4 or more nights) then one night would be mom’s piquant chicken.  I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit.  Here’s how I do it these days:

Recipe

1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast (i.e. the breast from one chicken, you can buy it as two halves)
1/2 c. flour
salt & pepper
3-4 tbs. butter
1/4 c. white wine
1/2 c. chicken stock (preferably homemade)
2-3 tbs. fresh lemon juice (1/2 – 1 lemon’s worth)

This is best served with rice cooked European style (with a little butter and salt).  Start the rice first because the chicken will cook in the time it takes the rice to cook.

Your chicken may be good to go straight from the store, or it may need a tiny bit of preparation, depending on how your butcher sells it (I’m assuming you buy it boneless and skinless – I do).  Assuming you buy the breast as one piece here’s what you need to do to get it ready to cook.  First, split the whole breast into two halves by cutting through the thinnest part in the center.  You’ll see a thin line of connective tissue there (it’s whitish).  Try to make your first cut all on the same side of the connective tissue because the next step is to cut that little strip of connective tissue off and throw it out.  Lay the halves smooth side down.  On the not-so-smooth side of each half you should see a flap of meat (although some butchers remove these and sell them separately).  Cut these flaps off and save them – they’re good to eat.  Remove any remaining bits of fat (the yellowish-white, opaque stuff) from all 4 pieces.  You’ll notice a vein down the middle of each flap.  If you want (but it’s certainly not necessary), you can cut these out (easiest to just slice through the flaps on either side of the veins leaving you with 4 half-flaps).  That’s it – you’re done.  It sounds like a lot, but it will take you about 3 minutes total.

Now that your chicken is ready to go, prep your flour coating.  There are two methods that work.  The one that’s slightly neater and slightly faster, but a little less environmentally conscientious is to use a large ziploc bag.  Put the flour in the bag along with about a teaspoon of salt and 1/2-1 teaspoon of ground pepper.  Shake the bag to mix the contents up (preferably with the top sealed).  One at a time put the chicken pieces in the bag, shake to coat, then shake off the excess flour.  Note that it’s best to wait to coat the chicken until the pan is ready to go so you can put the coated chicken right in to cook.

Melt the butter in a large skillet (preferably not non-stick) over medium heat.  Lay the flour-coated pieces of chicken in a single layer in the pan (put the thick pieces in first).  Cook the chicken until it is golden brown (about five minutes for the thicker pieces and a bit less for the thinner ones), then turn it over and do the same for the other side.  Take the chicken out of the pan and set it aside.  Add the wine to the pan.  As it boils, scrape up all the yummy brown bits from the pan.  Once the liquid in the pan has started to thicken a bit (it will both look thicken and should turn brownish and slightly opaque) add the chicken stock.  Let it cook down for a couple of minutes then add the lemon juice.  Cook for another minute or so more, then taste.  Add more lemon juice and salt if you want.  Put the chicken back in the pan and turn the heat down.  After a minute or two turn the chicken over.  Just keep the chicken in the sauce over low heat until your rice is done (or for at least 5 minutes).

Eat up (and don’t forget to use the tasty liquid in the pan as your sauce)!

Notes

Serves: 2
Start-to-finish: 30 minutes
Active: 30 minutes

Cooking rice: Use 1 c. of regular, long-grain rice (serves 2). In a medium saucepan, melt 1 tbs. butter over medium heat. When melted add the rice and stir with a fork for a minute or so. When the butter is mixed into the rice the grains will all look a bit translucent. When you start to see opaque grains add 1 3/4 – 2 c. hot water (less water will result in dryer, firmer rice, more in moister, softer rice) and 1/2-1 tsp. salt. Cover and bring to a boil. As soon as the water starts to boil turn down to the lowest possible heat. Leave undisturbed for 20 minutes then turn off the heat. Just before serving, stir the rice with a fork to fluff it up.

Homemade chicken stock: I like to make huge quantities in my giant, 24 qt. stock pot.  Since most people don’t have one of those, though, I’ll give quantities that will work in a more normal 8 qt. stock pot.  Put about 3 lbs. of chicken spare-parts (e.g. backs, necks, wing-tips, feet but NOT organs) into your pot.  If the store where you buy your chicken cuts up its own they will usually sell you (or sometimes give you) these parts at minimal cost.  Stores that don’t butcher their own chicken probably won’t have scrap parts but maybe able to get them for you with a few days notice.  If not, though, don’t worry, wings work great (preferably whole wings, not the ones that have had the bonier parts removed – bones are what this is all about).  You can also use the carcass from a whole roasted chicken after you’ve finished with it, although I wouldn’t recommend using one from one of those heavily-seasoned, store-roasted, rotisserie chickens – that will add a lot of odd flavors you don’t necessarily want in your stock.  To the chicken in the pot add a couple of stalks of celery (washed and snapped in half, you can leave the ends on), a carrot also snapped in half (washed but you don’t need to peel), a peeled yellow onion (cut in half vertically if you want), a small parsnip, 6-8 sprigs of Italian (flat-leaf) parsley (stems and all), 3 -4 dried bay leaves (you can use fresh if you have them), a small handful of whole peppercorns and a couple of teaspoons of salt.  Fill the pot with water and bring to a boil.  When the water starts to boil turn down the heat.  You want to keep the stock at a gentle simmer (probably medium-low will work, but you’ll need to experiment with your equipment).  If you want you can skim the foam that comes to the top in the early part of the cooking, but I never bother.  Simmer gently for 2-3 hours (or more).  Taste occasionally.  You can add more salt if you want.  When the stock tastes good it’s done.  Pour it through a very fine strainer (or a not-so-fine strainer lined with cheese cloth) into a large bowl.  Allow it to cool in the bowl for a while.  Once it is no longer boiling-hot cover the bowl with plastic wrap such that the plastic wrap sits on the surface of the stock.  Put the bowl of stock in the fridge over night.  Once the stock has cooled fully you may see a layer of congealed fat on the top of the stock.  Without taking the bowl out of the fridge (you’re going for minimal disturbance here), gently peel back the plastic wrap.  If everything goes according to plan, most of the fat will come off with the plastic wrap and you can just toss it.  You can take the bowl out of the fridge and use a spoon to skim any remaining fat off (although leaving a little bit won’t hurt you and will add richness).  Now you’re ready to use or freeze your stock.  When using stock from the freezer, make sure to thaw the whole container completely, even if you don’t need all of it.  You can refreeze it with no difficulty but the flavor and water components thaw at different rates so if you only partially thaw the container you may find that some of the stock from the container is under-flavored and some is too strong.

The Queen of Pizza

Much as I love to cook, it’s also nice to go out once in a while.  Since we were in town this afternoon anyway for a (fabulous!) concert at the Boston Symphony, we decided to try out the North End institution Regina Pizzeria.  We arrived about a quarter to 6.  Boy were we glad they had heat lamps outside since we waited out there for a good hour before we got a table.  It wasn’t really that there were that many people in line – I’d guess maybe 6-8 parties ahead of us.  The restaurant was pretty tiny, though and I guess we must have arrived just at the first rush.  We enjoyed using the time to make friends with the group ahead of us, a bunch of very friendly but somewhat secretive engineers (clearly defense contractors of some sort) in town for a meeting with collaborators at MIT.

If we’d waited for that long with neither the heat lamps nor the new friends I am not sure I’d have found the pizza worth it, but since we weren’t cold and we were entertained I was in the mood to enjoy dinner.  The pizza was quite good and, I have to say, beat any I had while I lived in New York.  Crusts were crispy, sauce had a nice flavor and ratio of crust to sauce to cheese was good.  We had my husband’s favorite, pepperoni.  It was a little oily for my taste, but pepperoni usually.  When I make it I like to cook the pepperoni for a few minutes, then take them out of the pan and drain them on paper towels before putting them on the pizza.  This renders out some of the fat resulting in a less greasy pizza and nice, crispy pepperoni.

All in all, I’d definitely eat at Regina Pizzeria again, but would aim for off-hours to (hopefully!) reduce the wait.

Breakfast for Dinner

Dinner time crept up out of nowhere and grocery shopping never happened.  Not many leftovers in the fridge and I didn’t feel like pasta so those sauces in the freezer didn’t help.  I contemplated the empty fridge and bare cupboards and concluded that pancakes were perfect for dinner.  I didn’t have much but milk, flour, eggs, butter and, of course, maple syrup were all on hand.  Besides, what could be more fun than the occasional breakfast for dinner.  And it doesn’t get much easier than pancakes.

Recipe

Source: Time Life Foods of the World, American Cooking

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs
2 c. milk
1/4 c. melted butter

Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together into a large mixing bowl.  Beat the eggs with a whisk then add the milk to them.  Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir.  It’s important to stir just enough to incorporate the wet ingredients.  Your mixture will be quite lumpy.  That’s fine.  You don’t want to over mix or your pancakes will be tough.  Fry the pancakes in butter over moderate heat.  You’ll probably need about a tablespoon of butter to start and then a bit more between batches.  Use a large spoon, ladle or pitcher to pour batter into approximately 4 inch rounds in the pan.  Let the pancakes cook until little bubbles appear all over the surface and when you use peek underneath the pancakes look a yummy golden-brown color.  Use a spatula to flip the pancakes over.  When the pancakes fill springy (not soft) when you prod them with the edge of the spatula and the undersides are also a nice golden-brown the pancakes are done.  If you want to cook a bunch of batches before serving you can put them on a warm platter in a 200° oven to keep them warm.  I like to eat them with melted butter and (real!) maple syrup.  Of course, you can eat them how you like.

Rice Pudding FAIL

After dinner I felt inspired to make some dessert.  I was going to make yummy postre boracho (white cake soaked in vodka) until I discovered that the butter was frozen.  By the time it defrosted and the cake baked and cooled it was going to be pretty late.  I opted for rice pudding instead.  I went for the recipe we’ve used in the past with mixed success.  Tonight was a definite fail!  Check out the recipe, then I’ll tell you why it probably failed and what I did instead.

Recipe FAIL

Source: Greek Cookery: 300 Traditional Recipes

1/2 cup sugar
Cinnamon
Vanilla
4 tablespoons short-grain rice
4 cups hot milk
1 heaping tablespoon corn starch

Put the rice on to boil in 3/4 cup of water.  Add 2 1/2 cups milk and continue to boil over low heat for approximately half an hour.  Add the corn starch dissolved in the rest of the milk, along with the vanilla and the sugar.  Simmer the rice pudding until it has thickened.  Serve hot or cold, with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

So, why the failure?  First of all, the ratios don’t make sense.  4 tbs. of rice to almost 5 cups of liquid?  That’s not nearly enough rice for the amount of liquid.  The Gourmet Cookbook, for example, calls for 1 cup of rice for a similar amount of liquid.  Adding the corn starch to hot milk as the recipe seems to suggest also doesn’t make much sense.  Corn starch must be dissolved in cold liquid.  I actually did dissolve it in the cold milk, but then heated the milk in the microwave before adding it to the rice concoction to avoid cooling the rice mixture down too much.  The corn starch did something I’ve never seen.  It fell out of solution and became one big mass in the bottom of container.  I mashed up and stirred it back in as best I could then added it to the rice.  It was quickly apparent that it wasn’t going to thicken so I dissolved some more corn starch in cold milk and added it directly to the mixture on the stove.  It started to show some signs of thickening, but not nearly enough.  Definitely a fail!

So, now I had this slightly thick sweetened milk with a little rice floating in it on the stove.  I still wanted something sweet so I ladled the mixture (leaving behind most of the rice) into mugs, poured in some yummy vanilla rum, sprinkled a little cinnamon on top and voila –  a tasty, sweet nightcap!  I’ll let the rest of the mixture cool and see whether it turns any more pudding-like when cold.