I was putting away my oboe after a practice session, the other day, when it occurred to me that I put a lot more in my oboe case than just my oboe. Inside my case is my oboe, a polishing cloth, the obligatory cork grease, a tiny humidifier, and orange peels. Why orange peels? The fresh, citrusy scent is merely a bonus. Actually, the orange peels keep the wood of the oboe from drying out during our long northern Michigan winters.
After thinking further, I realized my oboe has another meaningful encounter with food: a monthly rubdown with almond oil during the winter months. It’s just another way to help the oboe’s wood deal with humidity fluctuations that can lead to cracks and leaks if left unchecked.
So oranges and almonds… interesting! I always knew it helped to be both fruity and nutty if you wanted to be an oboist, but it never occurred to me to take those two elements outside of the practice room and bring them into the kitchen (another of my favorite places to spend time). I decided to put together a small series of recipes to highlight the musical union of oboes, oranges, and almonds.
Today’s offering puts a spin on an old favorite…
Orange-Almond Rice Pudding
1 large navel orange or other sweet orange
2 1/2 cups cooked white rice (basmati is great!)
4 cups milk (2% or whole)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cinnamon sticks (3-4″ each)
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon amaretto (almond liqueur) or 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
ground cinnamon, as desired
Using a paring knife or a vegetable peeler, remove zest from the orange in large pieces (be sure to avoid the bitter white pith). Juice the orange into a small measuring cup, reserving 1/4 cup of the juice. Set aside.
Combine the orange zest, cooked rice, milk, salt, and cinnamon sticks in a two-quart heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick and creamy (about 25 minutes). Remove from the heat and fish out the cinnamon sticks and zest pieces; discard.
Return to the heat and stir in the condensed milk, amaretto or almond extract, vanilla, and reserved orange juice; continue cooking, stirring constantly, until desired consistency is reached (about 5-8 minutes). The pudding will continue to thicken as it cools.
Divide pudding into 8 serving bowls or ramekins, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least two hours. To serve, top with toasted almonds and a dash of ground cinnamon.
The other recipes in the oboes, oranges, and almonds series: