At this point of my living in the United States, I am seldom in situations where I crave a sort of food that is impossible to find. A big part of this is the change that has occurred in the past decade or so in the American supermarket landscape. When we moved here, my mother and I kept running in to nasty food-related surprises. Admittedly, this was partially our fault, as we expected the stocks of basic California supermarkets, rather than specialty gourmet shops, to offer up cheeses and breads in a fashion comparable to their French counterparts. Sometimes, it was a simple problem of miscommunication. For example: in France, milk typically comes in entier (whole), demi-écrémé (partially skimmed) and écrémé/maigre (skim). So, in a misguided attempt to translate American milk packaging, we naturally bought half & half. As neither of us were big milk drinkers, it took us years to figure out this meant half cream, half milk...
But how the times have changed! I've fallen in love with American cheeses - especially with New York and New England creameries churning out a veritable panoply of incredible specimens. Beautiful loaves of bread are no longer rare finds. I even find many of the charcuterie offerings I once missed dearly. Still, a few foods, mostly pre-packaged brands, continue to elude me. While chocolate pudding is a delicious thing indeed, I miss square containers of Danettes au chocolat, or, lately, individually-sized semolina puddings with chocolate sauce. With this in mind, I set out to recreate a similar dessert with what I had on hand in pantry. The result was not a particularly accurate copy, but it did have a similarly smooth thickness in its consistency, and made for a very quick and comforting weeknight dessert.
(makes 4 to 6 servings)
2 cups milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsps dark rum
2 tsps orange zest
1/4 tsp cinnamon
In a heavy saucepan dissolve the sugar into the milk at medium heat. Bring to a simmer and add in the cornmeal and salt, whisking regularly.
Zest about a quarter of an orange and add it to the mixture along with the rum and cinnamon. Alternately, you can choose to spice (or not spice) the thickening pudding any way you'd like: 2 tbsp of brandy, 2 pods of cardamon, 1 tbsp of vanilla or 1 tsp or almond extract, etc...
After a few minutes, the thickened cornmeal will start to bubble on the bottom of the pan and "jump." Make sure to keep stirring at this point to avoid burning the pudding, which should be thick enough to stay trapped in the whisk - if so, you're done!
Transfer either directly to individual ramequins or a larger serving bowl. Serve either cold or warm, with fresh or dried fruit. Or, top the pudding with melted chocolate or caramel. The possibilities are endless!