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Sovay
Date: 2014-03-08 22:31
Subject: A mameligele, a pastramele
Security: Public
Music:The Focus Group, "The Green Station Haunt"
I wanted to make Indian pudding this weekend. I had cornmeal and spices; I needed molasses and milk. Some shopping errands took care of this discrepancy, as well as things like wanting to visit Porter Square Books in advance of my mother's birthday tomorrow. (Also getting chased out of J.P. Licks because the fire alarm went off and fire trucks showed up, which was considerably less satisfying.) Not having a family recipe to work from, I ended up combining two off the internet—one was straightforward with too little cornmeal, the other too busy with everything else—and it turns out that corn pudding is not at all difficult to make. The results were delicious and ample. Someday I will learn how to make dessert for two people rather than a party.

Nothing Traumatic Happened This Time, I Just Felt Like Making Corn Pudding in My Toaster Oven Corn Pudding

Preparation:

Thickly butter a 9-by-9 glass baking dish. Preheat the oven to 325°F. If your oven is a toaster oven, ignore this second step until right before the pudding goes in; seriously, it takes five minutes.

Pudding:

5 1/2 cups whole milk
2/3 cup cornmeal
1 cup molasses, see note
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger, see note
dash of ground clove
dash of vanilla extract

Whisk together all ingredients except vanilla in heavy large saucepan. Simmer over medium-high heat until mixture thickens, which it will do abruptly and somewhat unnervingly between the 8- and 10-minute marks. One moment you're stirring a pot of hot milk with a floating skim of spices on top and a swirling sediment of cornmeal at the bottom, the next, bam, you've got porridge. Continue to stir until it has achieved a heavy cereal consistency, about 15 minutes total; the pudding should be pourable at the end of this process, but require a spatula to get the last out. Think oatmeal or grits. If we're still talking gruel, keep it on the fire until we're not. The color will be an attractive light spice-flecked brown. Turn off heat, stir in vanilla, turn out into baking dish.

If you want to eat the pudding at this stage, that's perfectly acceptable; what you have created is a hasty pudding, so called because it took about 15 minutes. Fair warning, though: it becomes substantially more entertaining if you bake it.

Baking:

90 minutes at 325°F. I set the timer in half-hour installments, checking each time to make sure it wasn't going to overcook because I am paranoid about that sort of thing, especially when a lot of sugar or milk is involved. The pudding is done when the center no longer quivers if the baking dish is shaken. It doesn't have to be sliceable, like mămăligă, just cohesive. Long before then, the other person in the kitchen with you may or may not peer in through the glass and remark, "It's breathing!" because while the body of the mixture is still quite liquid, the surface has formed a milky, caramelized skin as if on a custard, which is now inflating and deflating gently as air pockets rise and break from the boiling cornmeal. It will continue to do this for the entire hour and a half. You may be reminded of lungs or at least a practical effect imitating them. I have no idea if this is usual for Indian pudding, but it was hypnotically fun to watch. By the time the pudding was done, the skin had turned the color of candy-crack caramel and was thick and tensile enough that a spoon dug into it more than it cut. It was sweet, chewy, and delicious, clearly the next evolutionary step on from the skin that forms on the top of boiling milk. The pudding underneath is also very tasty, however, so I recommend removing the dish from the oven, letting it stand on a trivet just long enough to avoid scalding, and then serving yourself as much as feels like a good idea. If you happen to have ice cream in the house, or if you've made a point of going back to J.P. Licks several hours after the fire alarm incident in order to purchase some ordinary vanilla ice cream for your husband and some coconut-milk vanilla ice cream for yourself, a scoop on top is a great idea.

Note:

Once I equalized the proportions between the two, the recipes from which I was working wanted about half a cup of molasses to the two-thirds of cornmeal. Rob and I tasted the pudding shortly after the initial porridge stage and determined it did not have nearly enough sweetness or flavor and added about another quarter-cup by judicious scraping-out of the Pyrex measure and the occasional spoon-dip back into the jar. On tasting the finished pudding, we thought it might have needed still more (and perhaps a little dark brown sugar to stabilize). Ditto ginger, which we did not have in the house at all, but which it clearly wanted. What I am recording here, therefore, is a combination of the recipe used tonight and the recipe as we believe it could be improved. If you want to replicate tonight's pudding, use 3/4 cup of molasses and delete the ginger. Everyone's different! You might prefer it!

Either way, enjoy. Oh, also, now you have enough corn pudding for a week or four guests, whichever shows up first.

P.S. I did not buy Vladislav Khodasevich's Selected Poems (trans. Peter Daniels) at Porter Square this afternoon, but as soon as I'd read this poem it was a close thing.
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