Until last summer, my four-year old was severely allergic to dairy. While it was easy enough to buy cases of rice milk for his cereal bowl, there were many baking substitutions that required more research. This task was made even more difficult because he was also allergic to corn — so most vegan margarines, etc., were not options.
And then I discovered the wonderful world of coconut. The milk, the oil, all of it — if you are looking for dairy substitutes in baking, it’s the only way to go (unless, of course, you are allergic to coconut, and then, wow). It has enough fat to make baked goods have a buttery flakiness, and there’s no chalky aftertaste like you get with soy. I cannot gush enough about it, cannot express what it did for the eating life of my family.
Then, one day, my son was no longer allergic to milk. It’s a long story, and if you’re dying of curiosity, you can read it here. But my timing was bad, and just before his allergy was eliminated, I had purchased two cases of coconut milk from Whole Foods.
Two cases. That’s 48 cans of coconut milk. And if you’re no longer using that milk in much of your baking, or using it for coconut milk tonic for your son’s granola and smoothies, then that’s a LOT of coconut milk. I love curries, but it would take weekly variations to get through that stock in a year.
So I passed some of it on to a friend, made some curries, and was beginning to think that the cans were reproducing like bunnies in our basement when I remembered coconut rice. I did one of those V8 forehead slaps: how could I have forgotten about coconut rice?
Because coconut rice is, in a word, amazing. And all you have to do is open a can of coconut milk — and that, quite clearly, is something that I can do at least 22 more times.
This is a savory rice dish, since the canned coconut milk is unsweetened (of course, adding a sweetener and some cardamom are steps toward coconut rice pudding which is a dream of another kind). It is creamy, rich, and perfectly suited as a starch for many dishes, including this delightful Braised Chicken with Saffron and Leeks, from Cook’s Illustrated. Or, just eating the leftovers plain, by the spoonful at 10pm, straight from the storage container. Not that I could get caught in front of an open refrigerator doing that.
BTW, if you find yourself clean out of coconut milk, I know where you can score some.
Full-fat coconut milk is essential! Don’t be afraid of the demonized coconut — coconut fat has many beneficial components, including medium-chain fatty acids and lauric acid, which support the immune system and are anti-fungal.
If you use a rice cooker or utilize a different way of cooking rice, simply substitute coconut milk for about half the water in your recipe.
(makes about 6 cups of rice)
- 1 can (full-fat) coconut milk*
- 2 1/4 cups filtered water
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 cups long-grain white rice, such as basmati or jasmine
Bring coconut milk, water, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the rice, and stir once with a fork. Cover, and lower heat to a simmer. Cook covered (don’t peek!) for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff rice with fork, re-cover, and let sit for another five minutes. Taste for seasoning, and serve.
* You can also use coconut milk straight from the coconut. To do so, simply omit the water and use fresh coconut milk for all of the liquid required in rice preparation. I’ve yet to try this… it’s on my kitchen to-do list for 2014.