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Arroz con Leche {Rice Pudding}

Arroz con Leche is really Mexi's "thing".  On those days when there's not much to eat in the house, it's inevitable that my hubby will be in the kitchen putting together a pot of this sweet, comforting concoction.  The great thing about arroz con leche...or rice pudding, that it is very versatile.  He's probably never made it the same way twice.  Sometimes he uses sweetened condensed milk.  Sometimes evaporated.  Sometimes regular ol' milk.  I suppose that's why it always winds up on the stove when everything else is running can pretty much guarantee that we at least have rice, some variety of milk, and some sort of sweetener in the house at all times.  Now, while Mexi's versions vary, whenever I am in the mood to make some, I make this version.  To me, it is perfection.  Sometimes I switch out the raisins with dried mango (my favorite dried fruit!) or cherries...sometimes I leave it out altogether.  But this method using medium-grain rice (my preferred type/size rice grain) is what soothes me the quickest.
Arroz con Leche
adapted from Mexico One Plate at a Time
yield: ~6 servings (~5½ c.)

2" piece of Mexican canela (or any cinnamon stick)
2 (2") strips of orange zest
½ tsp. fine sea salt
1 c. medium-grain white rice
4 c. milk (preferably whole or 2%)
¾ c. sugar
½ c. raisins (or other dried fruit like cherries, cranberries, diced apricots or mango)
Miel de Piloncillo (Mexican Raw Sugar Syrup), for serving
Place cinnamon stick, orange zest, ½ tsp. salt, and 1¾ cups water into a 4 quart saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Stir in the rice, then cover and lower heat as low as it will go while still simmering gently, for ~17-20 minutes (until all of the water has just absorbed).  Remove cinnamon stick and orange zest.

Add milk and sugar to the pan.  Set over medium-low heat and simmer until mixture just begins to thick (no thicker than the consistency of heavy cream), ~15-20 minutes.  Turn off the heat and stir in the raisins (or other dried fruit).

Serve warm, drizzled with Miel de Piloncillo.

*This can be refrigerated in a covered container for a few days.  It will thicken as it sits, so you will need to stir some more milk into it when warming it up. 
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