As you may have gathered from my last column, I’m intrigued by the fascination that New Yorkers hold for the “one-hit wonder,” those incredibly successful eateries that seem to thrive simply by specializing in only one food item.

Unbelievably great French fries, served in a paper cone?#34;with a choice of 26 different toppings?#34;at Pommes Frites in the East Village was truly memorable and unquestionably the first place I think of as I wistfully look back on my recent gastronomic tour of the Big Apple. But most remarkable has got to be Rice To Riches, the hip new rice pudding emporium in SoHo.

Over 25 flavors. Rice pudding. Who would’ve thunk it?

Rice pudding has special meaning in our household, especially for my wife. I had to prepare it daily and have it ready at her morning bedside throughout most of her pregnancy. As cravings go, rice pudding isn’t too off the wall, and it certainly did wonders for her nausea.

I too have a particular fondness for its creamy goodness. But truth to tell? We haven’t thought very much about rice pudding since the day of the blessed event. And that was over 10 years ago.

But here I am taking another look at this time-honored dessert classic. Even though rice pudding as I knew it has been given a thorough makeover, with flavors such as mango-lime, caramel yogurt and pistachio with sage, my visit to this innovative one-hitter has brought on a renewed craving of my own.

Rice pudding is often cooked on top of the stove with the addition of either whole eggs or egg yolks used to thicken the pudding. It’s much quicker, and indeed, time restraints and the quantity that I had to make in my restaurant dictated that that I cook it that way.

In this recipe, though, the long, gentle cooking in the oven transforms the whole grains of rice into a pudding whose texture is by far smoother and much creamier.

Rice pudding back in vogue. The old-fashioned way. Who would’ve thunk it?

cup unprocessed raw white rice
(long grain, preferably Jasmine rice) 4 cups milk

cup sugar

teaspoon salt

1 cinnamon stick

2 tablespoons golden raisins (optional)

cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons softened butter

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Combine the rice with the milk, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl.

Pour the mixture into a buttered baking dish (8-by-8 inches).

Add the cinnamon stick and optional raisins.

Cover the baking dish and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hours until thick and creamy.

Meanwhile, blend the brown sugar into the softened butter (the mixture should crumble).

Scatter the mixture over the cooked pudding.

Place in a very hot oven (450 degrees) or under the broiler for about 5 minutes, until the sugar has just begun to melt.

Serve warm or cold.

Variation:  Leave out the cinnamon and add 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

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Frank Chlumsky

Frank Chlumsky, former executive chef of Philander's restaurant in Oak Park, teaches in Chicago at Kendall College's School of Culinary Arts. In his 37-year career, Frank has owned restaurants in Michigan...