Cookbook Review: Bäco

Baco, Joseph Centeno

No chef captures the excitement of L.A.’s incredible food scene like Centeno. This groundbreaking collection of recipes revolves around his unique combinations of ingredients and the inspiration he draws from cuisines of the world.

Recipes are themes on flavours, sometimes unorthodox combinations from a lot of cuisines: Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, French, Middle Eastern, South American and African. Recipes span from simple to showstopping, exploring sauces, soups, mains, salads, and desserts, too. More than 130 vivid photographs convey the beauty and excitement of Josef Centeno’s extraordinary cooking. They are dishes that will revolutionize your approach to cooking and spark creativity in your own home kitchen.

Bäco: Vivid Recipes from the Heart of Los Angelesis available at and

Canela Rice Pudding with Salty Caramel and Orange Blossom Cream


1/2 cup [120 g] Arborio rice
2 cups [480 ml] water
1 cinnamon stick, preferably Ceylon
4 cups [950 ml] half-and-half, plus more if needed
1/2 to 1 cup [120 to 240 ml] heavy cream
1/2 cup [100 g] firmly packed light brown sugar, or to taste
1/3 cup [80 ml] condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup [70 g] whole almonds


2 cups [480 ml] heavy cream
1/2 tsp orange blossom water
1 recipe salty caramel (recipe below)


Rinse the Arborio rice several times until the water runs clear; this helps the rice cook evenly, with no al dente grains.

Put the water, a pinch of salt, and the cinnamon stick in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the rice, lower the heat, and simmer until it has absorbed the water, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the half-and-half and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat and gently simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally (be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent the rice from sticking; if it burns, you will have to start over). Depending on how quickly the rice absorbs the liquid, you may need to add a little more water or half-and-half.

Stir in 1/2 cup [120 ml] of the heavy cream, the brown sugar, condensed milk, and vanilla and continue to gently simmer, stirring frequently, until the rice is very thick and creamy (it should have no “bite” whatsoever), 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully discard the cinnamon stick.

While the mixture is still very hot, adjust the consistency as needed

with additional heavy cream. It should be rather thin; it will thicken dramatically as it cools. Taste the rice and adjust with more salt and/ or brown sugar as desired. Transfer to a medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap pressed flat against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

MEANWHILE, ROAST THE ALMONDS: Heat the oven to 350°F [180°C]. Spread the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and place on a middle rack in the oven. Roast, stirring the nuts once for even cooking, until toasty and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, coarsely chop and set aside.

MAKE THE ORANGE BLOSSOM CREAM: Whip the heavy cream with a whisk or an electric mixer in a chilled stainless steel bowl until soft peaks form. Add the orange blossom water and whip to incorporate. Set aside in the refrigerator to chill.

Spoon the chilled rice pudding into a large bowl and fold in enough orange blossom cream for a fluffy and light consistency (start with 2 cups [120 g] of the whipped cream and add more if desired). Spoon the pudding into bowls. Drizzle with caramel or serve with bowls of caramel and any extra orange blossom cream on the side. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds. Serve immediately.

Salty caramel

MAKES 1 1⁄2 CUPS [355 ML]

1 cup [240 ml] heavy cream
1 cup [200 g] sugar
3 Tbsp butter, cut into 3 pieces
1/4 tsp flaky sea salt
1-in- [2.5-cm-] wide strip of orange peel

Put the cream in a small saucepan over low heat to warm.

Put the sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and set over medium-high heat. As it starts to melt (first on the outer edge and then toward the center), don’t stir; instead, gently pull the sugar away from the sides of the pan using a heatproof spoon or spatula. Cook the sugar until it becomes a deep amber color, 3 to 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on it; it should be brown, but watch that it doesn’t burn.

Carefully whisk in the butter a tablespoon at a time—the hot caramel will froth and steam vigorously. Slowly pour in the warm cream, being careful of the hot steam. Whisk in the salt and orange peel and remove from the heat. Let the orange peel steep in the caramel for 3 to 4 minutes, then carefully remove the orange peel and discard it. Use the caramel as is, or transfer to a jar with a lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks (if it lasts that long). Once the salted caramel is cold, you can rewarm it to return it to a pourable consistency.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books.

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