Growing up, arroz con leche was a typical meal in our home. We would have it at any time of the day. In American culture it’s seen as a dessert and served cold, but in my culture, it’s served warm with a pan dulce to accompany the rich flavor of fresh cinnamon sticks.
I can still remember my mami cooking it in our kitchen, stirring the pot, listening to music, singing, and stirring a wooden spoon inside the the pot. “Clack…clack” because in Mexican culture you can’t just use any spoon for every meal. Some spoons are used for specific meals.
I can still remember walking towards the kitchen and smelling the rich aroma of fresh canela and condensed milk. I couldn’t wait to have a bowl of freshly made arroz con leche. As a kid, I remember thinking, arroz con leche again? Not realizing that years later it would be my favorite meal during those chilly cold months in New York City. Wishing I could have my mom’s homemade arroz con leche while I was away at grad school. As I worked on perfecting her recipe a few times over, I spent many phone calls asking my mom for measurements and cooking time. Like many Mexican moms, she never measured her ingredients. It was a pinch here, a dash there and hechale un ojo. Cómo se ve? It shouldn’t be so thick, but it shouldn’t be so watery either. So I had to perfect my arroz con leche by trial and error.
Now that I have my own family I look forward to passing on this tradition. As I prepare the ingredients I speak to my son about his abuela and what a good cook she was. I also tell him, he is just like her because he is a good cook too.
Hispanic Heritage Month is a great time to weave in our family traditions and remind my son all the richness our Mexican culture has to offer. We are teaching him to be proud of his Spanish and the traditions we carry from our ancestors.
It’s still a new taste to my son’s palate, but I hope that one day he will call me from college and ask me for the recipe to his abuela’s arroz con leche.
If you are interested in making arroz con leche, here is a simple recipe to follow and make at home with your family.
Arroz Con Leche Recipe
2 cups of water, 1 cup of rice, and sugar to taste, add in one cinnamon stick, and freshly grounded cinnamon once it’s served.
Directions: Boil water and add the cinnamon sticks. Once it boils for 5 minutes, add the rice (rinse the rice before placing it in the pot, it has less starch in it), bring the pot to a boil until the rice is almost soft and then add the condensed milk and sugar to your taste. I prefer creamy while others prefer thickened. Once the rice is soft, turn off the stove and serve hot. Don’t forget the pan dulce!