This dense, creamy risotto studded with nuts and orange zest is not your usual rice pudding! The recipe borrows from a traditional Italian risotto: from the short-grain, starchy Arborio rice I use, to the method of browning the aromatics (pecans, in this case) and rice in butter together as a first step. Toasted coconut adds a warm caramel undertone to the flavors. The finished product is thick and fragrant, but slightly loose, like rice bound in a creamy sauce. Crunchy bits of pecan make it perfect.
Makes 12 small servings
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
¼ cup chopped pecans
1 cup Arborio rice, well rinsed in cold water
1 cup water
1 ¾ cup whole, 2% fat, or 1% fat milk
Freshly grated zest of ½ orange
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup heavy cream, chilled
An ice water bath
About 12 small serving cups or teacups
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the coconut out on a baking sheet and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Melt the butter in a medium-size heavy saucepan. Add the pecans and sauté until lightly browned. Add the rinsed rice and stir to coat. Add the water, cover, and simmer the rice over very low heat without stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Add the milk, cover, and continue cooking without stirring until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes total.
Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the coconut, orange zest, sugar, and vanilla extract. Rest the bottom of the pot in the ice bath and let the mixture cool, stirring often. Meanwhile, whip the cream. When the mixture is cool, fold in the whipped cream and spoon into serving dishes. Chill, covered, until ready to serve. (The recipe can be made up to this point and kept refrigerated up to 2 days in advance.)