Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Thomas Jefferson's Apricots and Rice

Thomas Jefferson: The third president of the United States, a framer
of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, an architect, an adventurer, a scholar, a teacher, a diplomat, a planter … and yes, a slave owner who fathered children with his wife’s half-sister who was actually enslaved by Jefferson. It is the diplomat, adventurer and planter that I want to know best! Of all the accomplishments of this man, his quest to explore the United States to the west is my favorite topics. The Louis and Clark Expedition is one of my favorite parts of this history lesson!

However, it is the planter and vast land-owner that I’ll talk about today! Jefferson was a foodie! He loved his gardens. Historians call it a Revolutionary American garden and it included what they call economic plants from all over the world. He had 330 varieties of 89 species of vegetables and herbs. He grew 170 varieties of fruit. He supported small farmers and sustainable agriculture! Sound familiar? We need more Thomas Jeffersons today.

Jefferson enjoyed a diet of fresh vegetables and because of the diplomatic time he spent in France, he introduced French cooking styles to his household. His world travels introduced him to the culinary and gardening traditions in England, Spain and the Mediterranean. He blended that with Colonial European/American cuisine … the foodways of the Native Americans, Black slaves and Creoles … and created a legacy of food that we continue to study and enjoy.

The United States as an agricultural nation with large scale exports was a dream of Jefferson’s. To that end, he focused on rice production and searched for rice that would grow in a dryer environment that what we grew in the southeast. He watched as an Italian rice variety outsold American rice in Paris markets. He went to Italy and smuggled out samples of the rice in his pockets! He sent those to planters in America. Later, he studied rice from Cochin China (Vietnam), but was never able to get seeds. None-the-less, he wanted to improve the health conditions that surrounded growing rice in stagnant ponds of water. We are finally growing rice on dry land in the United States. Laotian farmers in Appalachia are growing it on those small farms that Jefferson loved.

New York City

Apricots with rice à la Jefferson is a dish created by Delmonico’s Chef Charles Ranhofer. Jefferson died forty years before Ranhofer began his duties at the popular New York City restaurant, but Ranhofer clearly thought it was important to name the dish made with a new rice being grown in Texas … after Jefferson. Ranhofer’s heavy book, The Epicurean, includes a second recipe using apricots and named after Jefferson and it seems that he combined that stewed apricot recipe with rice pudding to celebrate the new Texas rice.

The Chef made a beautiful rice pudding that was chilled and blended with whipped cream. He molded the pudding into layers and between the layers he spread a nice portion of apricot marmalade. He topped the beautiful rice pudding bomb with pineapple. Doesn’t that sound deliciously sweet?

I’m going to share two rice pudding recipes today. One is easily made in an instant pot/pressure cooker. The other comes from my childhood. My mother always made good use of a long baking oven! If she was roasting a chicken, she’d put rice pudding in the oven, too. When she made meatloaf, it often came out with scalloped potatoes, baked beans … and rice pudding!

Easy and Delicious Rice Pudding

Rinse 1 cup of long grain rice until water runs clear. Place the rice in a multi-functional electric pressure cooker. Add 2 cups of milk, 1 1/2 cups of water, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a dash of salt and stir well. Lock the lid and set the pot to cook rice. When the rice is done and the pressure has reduced, add 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and a handful of raisins. Put the lid back on the cooker and set it for 3 minutes … just long enough to let all the flavors blend.

Rice Pudding the Way Mama Made It!

2 eggs
4 cups milk
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 uncooked rice
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Beat the eggs, sugar and milk together. Add the vanilla, cinnamon, butter and rice and stir well. Place in a prepared 2 quart covered casserole dish in a 350 degree oven. The pudding will bake for an hour … maybe more. Stir it occasionally and and if the milk spews over the edge, remove the lid or tilt it so steam can escape. If you don’t have a lid, foil works fine!

You can make the pretty rice pudding bomb with either of these recipes. Simply chill the pudding, then layer it in a rounded bowl. Prepare the bowl with a non-stick spray so the the pudding comes out easily when inverted.

This post is part of my Foods Named After Famous People 2021 project! If you’d like to see similar columns, just click the menu tab. Enjoy!

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