Autumn Parfait


In this fall dessert, creamy arborio rice is layered with glazed figs in port wine syrup and sprinkled with honey-coated almonds. One bite and you'll understand why the French call it "parfait"--perfect.


  • ¾ cup Arborio rice

  • 2 ¼ cups milk

  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 2 lemons

  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

  • 3 large egg yolks

  • ¾ cup heavy cream

  • ¼ teaspoon pure almond extract

  • 9 small figs, (1 ¾ pounds total)

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • ½ cup tawny port

  • 1 cup whole almonds

  • 2 tablespoons honey


  1. Combine rice and 1 1/4 cups water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce to a simmer. Continue cooking, stirring gently, 4 minutes more. Transfer to a sieve, drain, and discard liquid.

  2. Place the parboiled rice in a medium saucepan. Add 1 3/4 cups milk and 1/4 cup sugar. Set pan over high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until rice is soft and liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Transfer cooked rice to a baking pan. Set aside to cool, and cover with plastic wrap.

  3. Using a vegetable peeler, remove peel from 1 lemon, being careful not to remove bitter white layer. Place lemon peel, remaining 1/2 cup milk, and 2 tablespoons sugar in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Using a paring knife, scrape vanilla seeds into pan, and add the pod. Stir to combine; bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn off heat, and cover. Let stand 15 minutes.

  4. In a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons sugar and egg yolks; whisk until pale yellow. Set egg-yolk mixture aside. Prepare an ice-water bath, and set aside.

  5. Uncover the infused milk mixture, and bring to a boil again over medium-high heat. Slowly add boiling milk mixture to the egg-yolk mixture, whisking constantly.

  6. Return mixture to saucepan, and set over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat immediately, and pour vanilla sauce through a fine sieve set over a medium bowl. Discard solids, and place bowl in ice-water bath to chill. Cover, and refrigerate until using.

  7. Place heavy cream and almond extract in a medium chilled bowl. Whisk until soft peaks form. Whisk one-fourth of the whipped cream into the vanilla sauce. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining cream.

  8. Place the cooked rice in a medium bowl. Stir in half of the vanilla cream, loosening the grains. Gently fold in the remaining vanilla cream; cover, and refrigerate.

  9. Squeeze 2 tablespoons juice from the peeled lemon into a small bowl; set aside. Wash, dry, and quarter figs. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the figs, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar. Cook, shaking skillet occasionally, until sugar has melted and starts to caramelize. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/4 cup port; return skillet to heat. Carefully ignite alcohol, and gently swirl pan, loosening the cooked sugar and figs. Let flame burn out, and cook until liquid has reduced by half. Transfer figs and syrup to a small bowl, and repeat cooking process with remaining figs, 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1/4 cup port.

  10. Heat oven to 375 degrees. and line a baking pan with parchment. In a small bowl, combine almonds and honey. Place on baking sheet, and toast 12 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool. Roughly chop nuts; set aside.

  11. When ready to assemble, use a zester to remove zest from remaining lemon. Place three fig quarters in the bottom of a wide-mouthed wine glass. Top with 1/3 cup rice pudding and 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped almonds. Make a second layer with 1/4 cup pudding and another 1 1/2 tablespoons almonds. Drizzle with port syrup; garnish with zest. Repeat layering in five more glasses; serve.

Cook's Notes

Try peaches, cherries, or apples if figs aren't in season.

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