Arroz con Coco
Arroz con coco rates high on the long list of things I should have tried sooner. A staple of Caribbean cooking, especially along the coast of Colombia, it’s essentially white rice cooked with coconut milk then served with fried fish, plantains, avocado. Deceptively simple, I used equal parts canned light coconut milk and water for the first attempt, combining all the ingredients and bringing them to a fast boil. The result was great if I was going for rice pudding but otherwise too sticky and un-fluffable. Trying to get the proportions and the timing right, I used a second can and sautéed the rice with a little bit of oil before adding the liquid. It may have worked but I let it go too long and the amount of rice was way off, so it burned before it cooked.
For my third and final try, I was out of cans but in the specialty shop geography of gentrified Brooklyn, organic dried coconuts were more accessible than canned coconut milk. I had also come across heated debates about the superiority of freshly expressed coconut milk. Deciding it was worth a little extra work, I got out the hammer to chop and grate coconuts for a few cups of milk. Taking no chances this time, I brought the fresh coconut milk and water to a simmer then added the rice and left it at the lowest possible setting, checking it often. After a 15 minutes the tell tale holes appeared on the surface. Subtle and deep, the coconut flavor infused the rice without weighing it down.
Needing some fish to justify the side, I considered a pan-Asian curry–almond blend but my friend Catalina pared it down for me instead – trucha frita and patacones. I didn’t want the trout battered and deep fried so I followed another friend’s suggestion to just drizzle it with olive oil, salt and pepper then add it to a hot pan until it was crisp on both side and just cooked through, saving the frying for the patacones (aka tosotones). A sun and seawater meal just when I needed a few extra minutes of light at the end of the day.
Arroz con Coco/Coconut Rice
It can also be made with just with coconut milk or titoté, coconut milk that’s been boiled down and caramelized, toasted coconut and raisins are optional.
1 1/2 cups fresh or canned coconut milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups long-grain white rice
1/2 cup toasted shredded coconut (optional)
1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)
Bring coconut milk, water, sugar and salt to a boil. Immediately add rice and return to a high simmer. Partially cover and lower heat to medium low until water is absorbed and rice is tender, 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand covered, about 5 minutes.* Fluff with a fork.
Serve with fried fish and patacones.
Note: If using, add the raisins to the rice here.