In the midst of the pandemic, as the weather shifts away from the warm days that allowed for comfortable outdoor gatherings, I suspect we’re all going to need some extra coziness. Autumn takes its time settling in where I live, but still the leaves are changing color and this week the days have been blanketed in thick fog. While Norwegian rice porridge (risgrøt) is a Christmas tradition, I suspect that this comforting classic would be welcome anytime one wants a taste of home. So today I’m posting my recipe as it appeared in The Norwegian American a few years ago. Read on for the article.
Christmas dinner always concluded with riskrem at my paternal grandparents’ house. Perched above a Seattle neighborhood known for its community display of Christmas lights—and decorated with plenty of lights and tinsel itself—my grandparents’ home shone with all the warmth and light I associated with the holiday, mingled with the smells of their traditional Norwegian Christmas feast. As much as I loved the meal itself, one of my favorite parts was when my grandmother brought out the bowl of chilled riskrem—a rice porridge with whipped cream folded in—and a pitcher of deeply colored raspberry sauce to pour over it. I loved letting that sweet-tart sauce pool around the base of the riskrem in my bowl, a contrast in color, flavor, and texture. While I grew up eating this always in riskrem form, I’ve decided to embrace the tradition of the porridge as well.
Riskrem, after all, is simply rice porridge with whipped cream folded in. At its simplest, the porridge consists of rice cooked with water and milk, and maybe a pinch of salt. Some recipes sweeten it slightly, and I’ve also seen recipes with vanilla, cardamom, or cinnamon added. As I’m making this with Christmas in mind, a time when everything should be as special as can be, I’ve added a touch of sugar. I also add a vanilla bean, and, taking a cue from Magnus Nilsson’s The Nordic Cookbook, a cinnamon stick while the porridge simmers. If you prefer to leave those out, that’s just fine.
As for the topping, recipes in general call for a pat of butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar. Some people serve it with cordial soup or milk, and others add raisins or berries on top. I keep mine simple with cinnamon, sugar, and butter. It’s hard to beat those essential elements, and I find that this recipe doesn’t need much more.
While I’m using the Norwegian name for this, the tradition of serving rice porridge at Christmastime spans the Nordic countries. The tradition of hiding an almond inside varies a little, with whoever finds the almond either winning a prize, or in parts of Sweden and Finland, a foretelling that they will marry before the next Christmas.
And, of course, if you’d like, you can always fold in some whipped cream sweetened with sugar to make it into riskrem.
Rice Porridge (Risgrøt / Risengrynsgrøt)
- 3/4 cup arborio rice
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 vanilla bean cut lengthwise and seeds scraped out, both pod and seeds reserved
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 thin slices cold butter
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 whole blanched almond
- In a medium pot, bring rice, water, and salt to a boil. Lower heat and maintain a good simmer, uncovered, until the rice absorbs the water, stirring regularly so the rice doesn’t stick.
- Add the milk, sugar, vanilla seeds and pod, and cinnamon stick, and stir in. Continue to simmer, covered, and stirring regularly, until the milk is absorbed and rice is tender, about a half an hour or so, checking regularly and adding more milk as needed.
- Remove vanilla pod and cinnamon stick. Taste and add additional sugar if desired. Transfer porridge to a serving dish or to four bowls, tucking a single whole almond somewhere inside one of the servings. Sprinkle with additional sugar and ground cinnamon and top with a pat of cold butter.
Find even more Scandinavian Christmas recipes in my cookbook Modern Scandinavian Baking!
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