Colombian Coconut Rice

59 Comments

When my husband and I were visiting our daughter a while back, she told us she was going to be vacationing in Colombia. My first reaction was, “Oh, Columbia in South Carolina?”

I should have known better. This is the kid who’s already been to Argentina, Hungary, Croatia, Guatemala, New Zealand, and Australia – 6 countries we hadn’t been to yet.

Our immediate thoughts were of course of drug cartels and kidnappers, but she assured us that the old part of Cartagena, where she’d be staying, was safe.

Well, she went, and she came back alive. But not without first texting me a recipe while in Cartagena for coconut rice that she fell in love with there. And she sent me a coconut rice recipe that she found online.

The recipe is from Serious Eats, and it’s actually called Colombian Coconut Rice, although the author, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, claims that this rice is popular throughout a significant area in South America.

As Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats and James Beard award winner, he definitely knows his stuff. Full bio below.

He writes, “At its core, arroz con coco is a pilaf—rice grains toasted in oil before being steamed, but in this case the oil comes directly from coconut milk. You start by dumping a can of coconut milk in a pot, and slowly boiling it off until all of the water content is removed, the coconut oil breaks out, and the solids begin to brown. From there, it’s a slow process of stirring and toasting until they are a deep, crunchy golden brown before finally adding sugar, salt, and rice.”

The only issue is if the coconut milk used in the recipe has stabilizers like crystalline cellulose or xanthan gum, you’ll have a hard time getting your solids to separate properly from your fat, making the rice to brown.

So I set out to find coconut milk without stabilizers and preservatives. Not an easy task. Finally, I found coconut milk at Trader Joe’s, with only coconut milk and water as ingredients. After many stores and Amazon. Hallelujah!

Colombian Coconut Rice
printable recipe at bottom

1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk (see note above)
2 cups uncooked long-grain rice
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup sugar (or brown sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups water

Heat coconut milk in a 2 quart heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat until simmering. Reduce to medium low and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until reduced to a couple of tablespoons.

Continue to cook, stirring and scraping constantly until coconut oil breaks out and coconut solids cook down to a deep, dark brown, about 20 minutes total.

Add rice, sugar (more or less to taste), and salt. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly until rice grains begin to turn translucent and golden, about 2 minutes.

Add water and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer over high heat, reduce to lowest possible setting, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and let rest 15 minutes longer. Fluff with a fork, and serve.

Coconut rice is delicious, not too sweet, and actually works well as a side dish to meats and vegetables. In Colombia, my daughter ate it for breakfast with eggs.

And, at this point, this daughter has only been to 4 countries we’ve not been to yet, since we finally visited New Zealand and Australia in fall of 2017.


We’re catching up!

Note: When the solids separate from the oil and begin to brown, they look like crumbs. But have no fear. Once the water is added and the rice cooks, they will dissolve.

J. Kenji López-Alt is the managing culinary director of Serious Eats and author of the James Beard Award–nominated column The Food Lab, in which he unravels the science of home cooking. A restaurant-trained chef and former editor at Cook’s Illustrated magazine, Kenji released his first book, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, in 2015, which went on to become a New York Times best-seller and the recipient of a James Beard Award, and The Food Lab was named Cookbook of the Year in 2015 by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

 

 

Coconut Eggnog

24 Comments

I happen to love eggnog. I mean I love eggnog so much that I even buy it in the carton. I doctor it up a bit with spices and bourbon of course; this photo is from last Christmas Eve.

img_0544

But why stop drinking eggnog after the holidays? I say hell no to that! I want my eggnog!

Recently I came across a Goya magazine ad for coconut eggnog, or Coquito, which according to the ad is an authentic Puerto Rican beverage.

_mg_3568

Since eggnog isn’t available at the grocery store any longer (why?) I knew I would have to try this version for my eggnog fix.

_mg_3576

This isn’t the same as regular home-made eggnog, but I thought the coconut flavor would be really fun, and it definitely is.

Here’s the recipe as I photographed it from the magazine.

img_0415

img_0414

_mg_3552

In a blender jar, add the evaporated milk, cream of coconut, coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and ground cinnamon. Blend on high until mixture is well combined.

_mg_3557

Pour eggnog into a pitcher and transfer to the refrigerator. Chill until cold.

_mg_3559

When ready to serve, shake first, add to glass, and add rum to taste.

_mg_3589

Garnish with ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks, if desired.

_mg_3582

I tried the eggnog both chilled and at room temperature, and I enjoyed both.

_mg_3570

The color isn’t as pretty if vanilla extract and cinnamon are included in the mixture, so these photos don’t show the eggnog with those ingredients.

I did include a grind of nutmeg before serving.

_mg_3564

Note: If you chill this eggnog overnight, you could always include a few cinnamon sticks.

Coconut Willy

49 Comments

My husband and I were in Kauai this past February on Valentine’s Day. At the poolside bar, our waitress informed us of a Valentine’s special drink, called a Coconut Willy.

Being ever so daring, I ordered one. Turns out it was the most delicious pool drink we’ve ever had. (Pool drinks typically translate to overpriced, overly sweet cocktails lacking in alcohol.)

It was so good, I asked the bartender about the drink, and he generously showed me how to make it.

I took a mental video of the process, and duplicated it once back at home when the weather warmed. We couldn’t wait to have them again!

_MG_9123

The drink is creamy with coconut and lime flavors. It’s so good it will transport you to a tropical state of mind!

Coconut Willy
For one drink, or double for two

2 ounces gin (I chose Rangpur gin for more lime flavor)

_MG_9094

3 ounces Coco Lopez

_MG_9095

Sweet and sour mix, approximately 2 ounces

_MG_9097

Place ice cubes in your glass.

_MG_9100

Add the gin and Coco Lopez. The Coco Lopez is more tan than white in color.

Stir really well, and then top off with the sweet and sour.

I garnished with a slice of lime.

_MG_9118

Alternatively, place the gin and Coco Lopez in a shaker with ice, shake well, and then pour into the glasses. Top with sweet and sour and stir.

I wanted to see if the coconut “blobs,” which show up in the most right photo above, would dissolve better using the shaker method, but they didn’t.

Alternatively, place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend for a frozen variation.

_MG_9133

I prefer drinks on the rocks because I can drink them faster. Sadly, that’s the truth.

Here’s the recipe for making a pitcher of coconut willies, based on a 750 ml bottle of gin:
1 – 750 ml bottle Rangpur gin
38 ounces Coconut Lopez
25 ounces sweet and sour mix

note: Two things about this drink. One, we were both surprised that it contained gin – we would have guessed vodka. Secondly, we were both sure that there was lime juice in the drink, and there is no lime at all. If you use regular gin, it will still taste limey! A mystery!

Thai Chicken Curry

64 Comments

I wanted to make this Thai curry for one big reason. I was hungry for a Thai curry. I don’t get to enjoy them often, because my husband doesn’t like the sweetness of Thai food. Nor are there any Thai restaurants where I live. So occasionally I just crave them and must make one for myself.

Thai curries require Thai curry paste. They can be made from scratch, but then one would need to have on hand exotic ingredients like fresh lemon grass, glalangal and kaffir lime. I’ve never been able to get my hands on these ingredients, which is why I refer to them as exotic.

Fortunately, purchased Thai curry pastes, which are unique combinations of seasonings and aromatics, do all of the work for you.

I’m most familiar with three varieties from Mae Ploy, pictured below. I feel fortunate just to have these available to me!

The green is mostly green chiles and lemongrass.
The red is mostly red chiles and garlic.
The yellow is mostly lemongrass and garlic.

There is a recipe on the back of these curry paste cartons. It’s simply this:

Combine 2 cups of coconut milk and 50 grams of curry paste of choice on the stove, add meat and add vegetables. It’s that easy to make a Thai curry.

So you can just add chicken or shrimp or even tofu to the curry-coconut sauce, and it is easy and delicious.

I prefer doing a stir fry with the protein and vegetables first, then adding the curry-coconut sauce. Basically the same concept, but a few more minutes required.

curr2

Thai Chicken Curry

Oil
2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
Salt, Pepper
1 onion, sliced into thin wedges
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin pieces
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
About 3 tablespoons red curry paste – you might start with less and taste first
1 – 13.5 ounce can coconut milk*
Fresh cilantro and/or basil leaves
Cooked rice, optional

Heat some oil over high heat in a large skillet of wok. Add some chicken and cook it until mostly all browned, at least five minutes. You want it about 80% cooked. Season with salt and pepper and place in a serving bowl. Continue with the remaining chicken and set aside.

curr3

Lower the heat to medium-high and add a little more oil. Add the onion, red bell pepper, and mushrooms and cook for about 5-6 minutes; the veggies should have some color on them, but don’t let them overcook. Add the veggies to the bowl with the chicken.

curr4

Place the 2 ounces of curry paste in the skillet or work and add the can of coconut milk. Whisk the mixture until smooth, then heat to a boil. Reduce the heat and let the sauce cook a little.

curr5

When you’re ready to serve, place the chicken and veggies into the sauce and stir to incorporate well. Let everything heat through and serve the curry topped with some cilantro leaves.

curr71

Or, if you prefer, serve the sauce on the side.

cur11r2
The curry is very good served with rice, but as you can see, I spiralized zucchini, parboiled them for a few minutes, and voila! Zucchini noodles!
z1

z2

* Make sure to buy canned coconut milk that is not sweetened for making pina coladas!!! There’s even LITE coconut milk if you prefer…

Thai-Inspired Risotto

28 Comments

When I make a dish that is inspired by a specific cuisine, like Indian, or Italian, it’s because I can. And you can, too. It’s just about being familiar with the specific ingredients of that cuisine. Then it’s just a matter of utilizing those ingredients to create your dish – no recipe required.

The same thing can be done with Thai food. I’m not saying I’m an expert. In fact, there are many ingredients I can’t get my hands on, which is sad, because I’ll never be able to taste them or cook with them. But there are two important ingredients in Thai cooking that are readily available. Those are curry pastes, and coconut milk.

Of course you can make your own curry pastes, and I’m one to usually do most everything from scratch in the kitchen. But because I can’t get certain fresh ingredients, like galangal and kaffir lime, there’s no way I could make a curry paste that comes close to the real thing. So I do rely on prepared curry pastes.

curry1

My favorite brand in Mae Ploy. The green is mostly green chiles and lemongrass. The red, my favorite, is mostly red chiles and garlic. The yellow is mostly lemongrass and garlic. They are pastes and must be refrigerated.

Regarding the coconut milk, I’m not talking sweetened coconut milk for pina coladas! Just plain coconut milk in a can. Coconut milk in a carton will work but it’s thinner and has a milder flavor.
thai23

Two other ingredients that come in handy when making Thai food are herbs, like mint, cilantro, and basil, as well as chile peppers. These can both be sprinkled on top of your Thai dish. But as long as you have coconut milk and a curry paste, you can make any dish Thai inspired.

So today I’m making a risotto using red curry paste and coconut milk, and topping it with grilled garlic-cilantro shrimp. It’s Thai, and it’s risotto!

Thai-Inspired Risotto with Grilled Garlic-Cilantro Shrimp

For the risotto:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 shallots, diced
1″ piece ginger, diced
1 1/4 cup risotto rice, like arborio or carnaroli
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 can coconut milk, unsweetened
1 tablespoon red curry paste

For the shrimp:
1 pound good-sized shrimp, cleaned
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of 2 limes
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cilantro, to taste

Rinse and dry the shrimp; set aside.
thai

Place the remaining ingredients in a small blender and blend until smooth. Pour the marinade over the shrimp and toss them gently.

When you’re ready to cook the shrimp, heat a stove-top grill or skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp to the hot skillet and cook for just a minute or so on both sides. The timing will be different based on the size of your shrimp.


After you’re done cooking all of the shrimp, cover them and set aside while you make the risotto.

Instead of plain olive oil for the risotto, I actually poured the rest of the green marinade into the skillet while it was still hot, and let the watery liquid boil off.


Then I poured it through a fine sieve into the risotto pot. That way the oil I use is much more flavorful, with the garlic and cilantro flavors! But olive oil or butter will both work.

Heat the oil in the risotto pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and ginger. Sauté for a few minutes.


Then add the rice and stir until all of the rice grains are coated with the oil.
thai56
Begin adding the chicken broth, about 1/4 cup at a time, and stirring the rice well after each addition.
thai67
Add the curry paste and stir in completely. You will love the smells!

Then I began adding the coconut milk, and treating it exactly like the broth. But you can change up the broth to coconut milk ratio to your liking.


The risotto will let you know when it’s at maximum absorption, because it just won’t absorb any more liquid. But trust me, if you let it sit, it will thicken. So be ready to serve the risotto at the end of the cooking time. That way it will be hot and creamy, and not thick and stiff.
thai76
Serve the risotto in a pasta-type bowl, and top with the grilled shrimp.
thai7
I sprinkled on some slices of fresh chile peppers; Thai chile peppers aren’t necessary, you just want something with a little heat. Even jalapenos would work. Chile peppers provide such lovely color, as well.

You can also top the dish with chopped cilantro, mint, and or basil.

If you’re interested in authentic Thai cuisine, check out Miranti’s blog at The High Heel Gourmet!