3 cups milk
¾ cup Carolina Gold or other long-grain wild rice (see note)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 vanilla bean
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
6 tablespoons natural cane sugar or granulated sugar
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease six (6-ounce) ramekins, and place on a rimmed baking sheet.
Pour the milk, rice and salt into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Using a sharp knife, cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and, using the knifepoint, scrape the seeds into the mixture. Drop the bean pod in as well. Place over medium heat, and bring to a low simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender and the mixture is thick and creamy, 20-25 minutes.
Remove from the heat, and discard the vanilla bean. Add the heavy cream and sugar, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Cool slightly, then stir in the egg yolks, butter, nutmeg and cloves until the butter melts.
Divide the pudding evenly between the prepared ramekins, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until slightly puffed but still soft in the center. Remove the baking sheet with the ramekins from the oven.
Preheat the broiler or prepare a small kitchen torch for use. Sprinkle each pudding evenly with about 1 tablespoon of the topping sugar.
If using a broiler, place the baking sheet with the ramekins under the broiler in the upper third of the oven until the sugar caramelizes, rotating the baking sheet to evenly brown, 1 to 2 minutes. If using a kitchen torch, torch each pudding individually to caramelize the sugar, being careful to keep the torch at the distance recommended by the manufacturer. Serve warm.
Cook's note: Fatter-grained and flavorful Carolina Gold Rice faded from the nation's table sometime between the Civil War and the Great Depression. In the 1980s, a Carolina surgeon acquired some heirloom seeds and began reviving this strain of rice, which gets its name for its golden hue in the fields. Sources include boiledpeanuts.com (843-720-8890), ansonmills.com (803-467-4122) and carolinaplantationrice.com (877-742-3496).
"Sara Foster's Southern Kitchen" (2011 Random House)