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Down in Florida, we think coconuts are dangerous. Flying through those gusty summer hurricane winds, they’re like cannonballs or exploded fuselage, flying through the air with the greatest of speeds. You don’t want to be in a coconut’s way, oh no. Or standing underneath one when it gets ripe enough to plummet down from its palm and clock you on the head. That’s for sure.
Yes, coconuts are dangerous. They are also dangerously delicious. And what better to do with a menace to society than to eat it—take it off the streets for good! This month I had no idea what secret ingredient to do. I thought I had no secrets left. That I had spilled them all. But then it hit me, like a coconut on the head, and I want to do two months of it. We’ll see. It’s one of those few ingredients that really is sweet and savory, and that can taste so all-American, and also so ends-of-the-earth exotic.
Coconut comes in many forms. This rice pudding uses coconut milk, and dried coconut, plus a few extras like rice and sugar and cream to make this creamy coconut concoction inspired by Thai coconut rice and coconut ice cream. It’s luscious, not too sweet, decadent, exotic, and comforting. How’s that for a dessert!
- 1 cup Valencia rice
- 1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Pinch salt
- 1/4 cup unsweetened dried flaked coconut, plus 6 tablespoons
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
Put the rice and 3 cups of water in a medium saucepot. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer the rice until tender, about 18 minutes. Drain in a fine mesh colander.
Put the rice back in the pot with the coconut milk, sugar, salt, and dried coconut. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the pod to the rice. Cook on the lowest heat, uncovered, until thick: 40 minutes. Turn off the heat, and stir in the cream. Remove the vanilla pod, and discard.
Spoon the pudding into 6 serving dish, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Place a wide sauté pan over medium heat, and add the remaining 6 tablespoons dried coconut. Toast the coconut, stirring often, until just golden, but not brown—less than 90 seconds. Take out of the pan immediately so it doesn’t burn, and sprinkle over the cups of rice pudding.
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