When Haagen Dazs introduced its dulce de leche ice cream several years ago, the company hoped it would sell well to American Latinos, but I don’t think it had any idea that everyone would quickly end up loving it. Hey, what’s not to love! Long popular throughout South America, where it is known by many names, dulce de leche is condensed milk, heated in the can and caramelized, which gives it a toasty flavor. Rafael Palomino, in his cookbook, Bistro Latino, applauds the versatility of this sweet, which works as “dessert on its own or as an ingredient in cookies, cakes, muffins, and ice cream.” Today, thanks to our growing Latino population, concentrated dulce de leche is available at most American supermarkets and by mail from www.gauchogourmet.com. (I use it in this recipe from Sara Moulton Cooks at Home.) Rice pudding flavored with dulce de leche makes delicious sense. They are both comfort foods. The toasted almonds add a nice crunchy counterpoint.
2 1/4 cups whole milk
1/3 cup long-grain white rice
1 cinnamon stick
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup dulce de leche
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Mix together 2 cups of the milk, the rice, and the cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium-low heat until the rice is tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick and set the pan aside.
Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup milk with the egg yolks in a large bowl. Add a little of the rice mixture at a time, whisking constantly. When all the rice has been added, return the pudding to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring, until the temperature of the pudding reaches 160°F, 3 to 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the dulce de leche and vanilla. Stir until incorporated. Pour the pudding into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or overnight. Serve cold, sprinkled with almonds.