This is one of my favorite desserts, especially this time of year when it’s bleak and gray outside. The initial recipe was from a friend at church in Rockford, IL. way back in 1972, or so. As an herb lover, I’ve made a few slight changes that we feel are an improvement. They are in italics.
In a large saucepan with lid, mix 1 c. regular white rice, 1/2 tsp. salt and 3 c. water. If desired add 3-4 6″ pieces of lemon grass or 6 lemon verbena leaves. Bring to boil, cover and reduce heat to a gentle boil and cook about 12 minutes, until rice is JUST tender, stirring once or twice. Remove from heat. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and butter a 2 1/2 qt. baking dish.
Meanwhile, beat 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk (reserving the white) with 3/4 c. sugar. Add 2 c. milk. When rice is cooked, remove lemon grass or lemon verbena leaves and discard. Spoon about 1/4 of the rice mixture into the egg mixture, stirring to “temper” it so eggs won’t cook from hot rice. Gradually add the remaining rice in two or three batches. If lemon grass was not used, at this point add ONE of the following: 1/3 c. finely chopped lemon balm, the grated zest of a lemon, 2 T. finely chopped lemon scented geranium, OR 1 tsp. lemon extract. Pour rice mixture into buttered casserole and bake in preheated oven about 30 minutes, just until center is set.
While rice is baking, make lemon pudding/pie filling according to package directions. This should be the kind that is cooked and requires 2 egg yolks, not the instant kind. Be sure to reserve the 2 egg whites, adding the one reserved initially from the rice mixture as well.
When rice is baked, remove from heat and set aside. Move oven rack to center and keep oven on, increasing heat to 400 degrees. While rice cools briefly, make a meringue by beating the 3 reserved egg whites with a pinch of cream of tarter to white foam. Gradually add 3 T. powdered sugar, beating on high until stiff peaks form.
Pour lemon pudding over rice, spreading evenly. Spread meringue over the lemon pudding. Return casserole dish to oven and bake until meringue is nicely browned…WATCH carefully as once it begins to brown it can change quickly. Remove and serve slightly warm, or allow to cool, or refrigerate for up to 2 days. Serves 8.