What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She’s crying with all her might and main,
And she won’t eat her dinner – rice pudding again –
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

From ‘Rice Pudding’ by A. A. Milne

That poem goes on for several stanzas and by the end—even though rice pudding is only mentioned twice—anyone over the age of two has figured out just how much Mary Jane hates rice pudding.

I totally get where Mary Jane is coming from. I do not like rice pudding. I don’t care how well it’s made –with the freshest milk, the tenderest rice, the finest vanilla bean—riz au lait (the homey, beloved French version) will always taste like a whole lot of sticky, milky, baby food-y nothing to me.

The only exception to my rice pudding aversion—is teurgoule. (Pronounced tur-ghoul). And oh, what an exception it is. Teurgoule is a rice pudding from Normandy, but calling it a rice pudding is like saying Dom Perignon is just another white wine. Yes the ingredients are the same, but the end result is so dramatically, marvelously different that all comparison stops there. When rice, milk, and sugar are cooked low and slow to make teurgoule, the rice melts into the custard, the milk sugars caramelize, and a chewy, dark brown crust forms on top. Everything about it is subtle, textured, and simply heavenly, hot or cold, the day it’s made or three days on. (If it lasts that long.) Some teurgoule recipes call for cinnamon or nutmeg, but I find the caramelized taste is so rich and intense that you need no extra anything at all.

Teurgoule (Norman Rice Pudding)

Melted butter, for greasing the baking dish
½ cup (100 g.) turbinado or organic cane sugar (white sugar will also work)
1/3 cup (70 g.) short-grain white rice
pinch of salt
6 cups (1.5 l.) whole raw or pasteurized milk (use the best quality you can find and do not use ultra-pasteurized milk which will separate and turn bitter)

PREHEAT the oven to 300˚F.

BRUSH a 2-quart glass or ceramic ovenproof dish with melted butter, and place on a baking sheet.

SPRINKLE the rice over the bottom of the prepared baking dish.

BRING the milk, sugar and salt to a boil. Pour the milk over the rice in the baking dish. Slide the dish into the oven, and bake 4 hours, or until the top is deep brown and the pudding underneath is thickened and bubbly. (It will thicken more as it cools.) Halfway through the cooking time, poke a few holes in the topping with the tip of a knife to prevent the pudding from overflowing. Cool at least 30 minutes before serving.