Sometimes, all we really need is a heaping spoonful of old-fashioned comfort to make it through the day. The homemade rice pudding at Zorn’s of Bethpage is like a sweet, reassuring hug from a favorite family member.
Peter Zorn founded Zorn’s on Hempstead Turnpike in Bethpage in 1940. A butcher and poultry farmer by trade, he had the radical idea that turkeys could be sold year round, and not just for holiday celebrations. As his “oven ready” turkeys caught on, Peter added sides and desserts to the takeout menu, based on family recipes. Among the choices was a creamy rice pudding. Zorn’s has been serving “Long Island’s favorite takeout” ever since.
Peter Zorn’s granddaughter, Merrill is now CEO of Zorn’s and keeps the family legacy alive with a commitment to fresh wholesome ingredients and highly prized family recipes.
“It’s my grandfather Peter Zorn’s original recipe,” says Merrill of the signature rice pudding the store has sold for decades. “Nothing has changed. It’s so clean and creamy. I love it.”
She remembers sampling the dish when she worked at the store growing up. “I remember always eating it and loving it,” she recalls. “I would eat it warm and pour extra cinnamon on it.” Nowadays, she often brings home a container of the rice pudding at least once a week. She estimates that Zorn’s prepares an average of 100 pounds of rice pudding weekly over the course of a year.
Rice pudding is thought to have originated in China and India where rice was widely cultivated. It’s typical of a variety of puddings and porridges that have been made in family homes for centuries. As the weather cools down, sales of rice pudding tick up along with other Zorn’s comfort favorites like chicken pot pies and chicken noodle soup. Merrill says the simplicity of the recipe is part of the appeal.
“It’s just five ingredients – eggs, cream, milk, cinnamon, vanilla – it’s real simple. It’s your homemade rice pudding that Grandma made 100 years ago.”
Zorn’s rice pudding is indeed a retro delight, toothsome and silky smooth with contrasting flavors of warm cinnamon, cool cream and just a hint of vanilla. It pairs up beautifully with a roaring fire, an heirloom throw and a piping hot cup of herbal tea.
For Merrill, Zorn’s rice pudding is all about family. “The only ingredient we put in that nobody else puts in is a lot of love,” she says.