Saturday, January 15, 2011
Is there anyone out there who will admit to eating at cafeteria-style restaurants...and liking it? I know, there are a lot of bad cafeterias out there(let's leave schools out of this, shall we?)(and buffets are not cafeterias), but I must say, eating at a good one is almost like being able to hop in a time machine and go back to the days when your meals were just there on the table at mealtimes, waiting for you, except with the added bonus of being able to see all your options and choose your favorite. Of course, there are always dishes you can count on being served in cafeterias, like salisbury steak, slices of pies, and jello, but despite the myriad stereotypical offerings, there is one that I am always tempted to grab from the rows of cold bowls filled with salads, puddings and jellos: tapioca. I am an absolute sucker for the tender pearls enrobed in clouds of eggy creaminess, especially when it's topped off with a dollop of whipped cream. However, I can probably count the number of times I've made it from scratch on my pinky finger, using a box of "minute" tapioca (that neglected to mention the additional 29 minutes it takes to stand stirring the pot at the stove), and the result did not best the months-old tapioca cups I had sitting in my cupboard waiting to be put in someone's lunch. BUT, I have had a tapioca epiphany (a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience)(I wasn't sure if that meant what I thought it meant, so I looked it up and it's exactly what I meant). I had bought a bag of tapioca pearls from the bulk section at Winco, with high hopes I would use it. That was last month. Then a few days ago, the thought popped into my head that I vaguely remember hearing something somewhere about a recipe for crockpot tapioca. I googled it and got this recipe from Allrecipes.com. This is exactly what tapioca should be: rich, creamy, comforting, and easy. And don't be fooled into thinking you'll be making enough to take 'round to the neighbors; my family of six polished this off in three days.
2 quarts milk(I subbed in cream for the last cup of milk; why not?)
1 cup tapioca pearls(whole, not minute, any size)
1 1/2 cups sugar(I know, doesn't sound like enough, but it is)
2 TBS vanilla
pinch of salt
Crack the eggs into the crockpot and whisk up until blended. Add all other ingredients and mix. Cover and cook on high for 2 1/2 - 3 hours until thickened up to pudding consistency, stirring occasionally so you don't have a layered egg casserole. If you leave it in the crockpot after it has initially thickened up, it will result in a thicker pudding when it has cooled.
Now, when I made this, I have to admit I was despairing that it would work when I stirred it at the 2-hour mark and it looked the same as it did when I put it in in the first place. But then some kind of magic happened, because when I opened it again at the 2 1/2 hour mark, it had suddenly transformed into this thick, rich pudding you see in the picture. It's like the pearls finally decided to give in and just sucked in all that creamy goodness like a camel finding water. Unbelievably satisfying.