The other night I dined at Maynard's in the historic Tucson railroad station downtown--dining is the right word for it, by the way, because the food was wonderful. One of the two desserts we ordered was their Coconut Rice Pudding, which was very good and set me to thinking about making it myself.
The problem with pudding is that you have to go the distance in making it very good indeed, or it will sink to the level of packaged mixes. Rice Pudding is a great American favorite, related to the time when leftovers were anathema. In previous centuries people did not throw vast quantities of food into the garbage; they fed their animals with leftovers, or recycled the food into new dishes.
There isn't any reason not to make Rice Pudding with brown rice, although you will have to forego any habit of cooking it in broth or adding savories such as Sazon, one of my favorites. Just cook up one cup of organic brown rice in two cups of water. Set your oven to 350 degrees and give it an hour. You will come out with two cups of cooked rice. When it is done, fluff the rice with a fork and set it aside while you make the rest of the pudding.
BROWN RICE PUDDING
2 cups cooked organic brown rice
1-1/3 cups light organic coconut milk
Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup packed organic light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon soft unsalted organic butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 large organic eggs at room temperature
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl with a whisk or an electric mixer. Beat them on a low speed until you can no longer see streaks and the eggs have become fluffy.
Place the rest of the ingredients into the mixing bowl with the eggs and combine them gently with either with the electric mixer on its lowest speed, or a wooden spoon. You do not want to break the rice grains up into particles.
When the pudding is evenly mixed, transfer it to a buttered baking dish. Bake it for 50 minutes and then check to see that it is completely set.
Making a good rice pudding requires a light touch. This is one dish that, like cake mixes, I discovered not to beat madly, as though the pudding would resist mixing. Go ahead and beat up the eggs, and then take it easy on the rice as you mix the final pudding up. Like many classic recipes, Rice Pudding became popular as a milk-based comfort food because skilled cooks made it well. It is basically a simple recipe.
Once you have your pudding, you can proceed to sauces. With the coconut version of this pudding, caramel sauce is recommended. Other toppings include a fresh berry sauce (don't resort to jars of sundae toppings) or whipped cream, which is a classic with rice pudding.
If you want to go all the way, buy a box of egg whites in the dairy section and make a meringue to top the pudding. Brown it briefly in the hot oven after the pudding is done by removing the pudding to stove top, spreading the meringue over and then returning the pudding to the oven before you turn it off.
You can find plenty of instruction and advice on meringue online, so go with that if you like it. But DO NOT under any circumstances attempt to use a kitchen torch to go over the meringue and brown it quickly before serving. This is a dangerous shortcut and I don't know what the celebrity chefs are thinking when they do it.