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Horchata

May 30, 2018

My kids’ elementary school hosted a “World Culture Night,” which was the best. Since we’ve left Brooklyn, we see many more leaves and rivers and chipmunks and other animals who are not rats than we used to; things could not be be better in that regard.

We also meet a lot fewer Bangladeshi butchers and have been invited to zero parties where unheard-of herbs are synthesized into delicious salads by savvy Caribbean women. I cannot remember the last time someone tried to serve me a turkey neck in a curry. And I guess I am a little sad about that.

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thx to ryan pickle from flickr 

But for World Culture Night, all families with a penchant towards a particular culture were invited to make a booth with music, crafts, fashion, and foods from whence they came — either recently, or never, because it was actually their grandparents or someone who came from there.

 

I would not have had a lot to contribute unless I made a Wethersfield, CT booth with a red onion costume, a tri-cornered hat balanced atop, and shiny shoes buckled below, piccolo in fist, with a mouthful of butter-and-sugar corn. But: I didn’t think of that until afterwards.

My enthusiasm for the cultures of others led me to ask a friend whose grandparents are Mexican if she’d like any help. My daughter had just finished a unit on Mexico and my son had cried real tears recently after I explained that we are not, in fact, at all Mexican. (The same thing happened with Jewish a few years back.)

We worked with another actually-from-Mexico family who had great ideas and execution, not to mention bona fides. (Meanwhile, it has been fun to field casual but focused lines of questioning about what part of my family is Mexican.)

At WCN, our booth had a station where kids could make paper flowers out of tissue paper and pipe cleaners. It had five huge, beautiful king’s cakes, with candied fruit atop, sliced thin for tasting. It had a chart so you could understand that the words for so many of your favorite things — chocolate, avocado, coyote, tomato — come from the Nahuatl language. Our booth had a line 1000 children long where you could get your face made up in Day-of-the-Dead makeup. And it had children modeling colorful serapes.

My contribution was horchata — which is basically the drink form of rice pudding. I drank a lot of this when I lived in Texas and now I drink it anywhere else I can find it. I usually share it with someone, because it’s pretty sweet. We served it in tiny little cups. It’s delicious and was quite popular with grownups and kids alike.

Children are a suspicious lot and many of them were wary of tasting a drink they hadn’t had before. I told them to dip a finger in and then lick it off, and most of them wanted their allotted cup, and seconds.

Several adults asked for the recipe so I am publishing it here.

HORCHATA RECIPE

For this recipe, you will need:

  • Long grain white rice
  • Water
  • Sweetened condensed milk or sugar and milk (You can basically do whatever you want, and it will be delicious)
  • Cinnamon (sticks or ground)
  • Vanilla

Horchata is not unlike banana bread — no matter what you do with it, it is going to be delicious. Unlike banana bread, if you are not happy with the result, you can monkey with it until you do find it delicious.

If you want to make quite a bit, soak a bag of rice in a large bowl or stock pot. Soak cinnamon sticks in there, too, if you have them. After several hours, blend some of the water with some of the rice in a very strong blender.

Very strong.

Strongest.

Blend the cinnamon sticks too if you’d like. After blending for about a minute, the rice should be smaller. Some of it will be ground completely, but expect a gritty slurry at the bottom. Strain the liquid and the partial slurry that comes out with it. To the rest of the ricey chunks in the bottom of the blender, add milk and more sugar than you would like to admit. Add a dash of vanilla and ground cinnamon if you haven’t used any yet. Blend until you are tired of blending it or are starting to smell that warm rubber smell which signifies the motor ruining itself. Then, strain the milky sugary liquid into the first liquid you strained. Stir and taste it. Is it good? Is it so so good? Or does it need more sugar?

Clean the slurry out of the blender to start anew with the next batch. Begin again with several cups of the ricey water and a couples of inches of rice. Blend, strain. To the grit at the bottom add cinnamon, vanilla, milk or more water and sweetened condensed milk, blend again, strain again, and clean out blender.

Repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat. For some of the sugar — or all of it — you can use sweetened condensed milk. Taste for cinnamon and vanilla. Do not be alarmed at the accumulation of soft, ground rice at the bottom of your container. It has the consistency of ooblek, but not the properties.

Serve over ice to lots of suspicious children and delighted adults. It tastes like a nap in a glass.

 

 

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Heather permalink
    May 30, 2018 8:42 am

    This is so delightful.

    • May 31, 2018 4:02 pm

      If i was held at gunpoint and forced to list one person who loves horchata more than me I would say you.

  2. Dad permalink
    May 30, 2018 9:07 am

    Pleased that your blog is active again with your usual delightful blend of useful information and humor.

  3. Gabrielle Schuerman permalink
    May 30, 2018 12:44 pm

    So fun to have Church Avenue Chomp back in my inbox!! Love this!!!

  4. May 31, 2018 8:26 am

    So happy to be discovering your blog and this great entry to start my dive. I live in a town of 7k in central NC. We have but a single food truck, but luckily it is the real deal. Tacos Los Altos serves up a mean horchata, compliments of their abuela. Looking forward to finally making some at home thanks to your recipe. And if you want an Italian booth next year let me know–I make a turkey neck cacciatore that is beyond. 🙂

  5. May 31, 2018 8:28 am

    So happy to be discovering your blog and this great entry to start my dive. I live in a town of 7k in central NC. We have but a single food truck, but luckily it is the real deal. Tacos Los Altos serves up a mean horchata, compliments of their abuela. Looking forward to finally making some at home thanks to your recipe. And if you want an Italian booth next year let me know–I make a turkey neck cacciatore that is beyond. 🙂

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