A staple of Panamanian cuisine, arroz con coco or coconut rice is a savory side dish with a subtle taste of fresh coconut.
So, let’s talk about rice. Rice is one of my favorite things in the world. If I were stranded on a deserted island and could only have a few things, rice would be one of my choice items.
Arroz con Coco -coconut rice- is ever-present in Panamanian meals. We love the stuff! Now, this is not a dessert. It is a savory side dish with a subtle taste of fresh coconut. I’m not sure how many of you, my bloggies, have eaten or cooked with coconut milk. More often than not, it seems the first image that comes to mind when thinking of coconut is the dry flakes or Coco Lopez (which makes an AWESOME Piña Colada, btw). However, real coconut is nothing like either of those. It is creamy, with a hint of natural sweetness.
This method I’m sharing, will intensify the coconut flavor and does take a few extra minutes spent drawing the oil out of the cream. The other method would be to simply substitute the water you’d use for the rice with coconut milk. Remember to look for the unsweetened coconut milk. Here we go.
Let’s make some coconut oil: Pour one can of coconut milk into a medium-size pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. The water will evaporate after about 5 minutes and you’ll be left with the dense cream. Continue to cook it over medium heat until the oil begins to come through. Some of the cream solids will begin to brown and caramelize, that’s okay. It’ll make the rice pretty.
Once all the cream has turned to oil, remove from the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes. This will make about ¼ cup of oil.
Add 2 extra 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pan and heat over medium high temperature. In the meantime, rinse and drain the rice. You want to rinse just as you begin to heat the oil, this prevents the rice from getting goopy after cooking. The easiest way to rinse the rice is to put it in a colander and run it under cool, tap water. Let it drain; you may need to give it a quick shake to get the excess water out.
Once the oil comes to temperature, add the rice and stir it around every couple of minutes. This will help loosen any of the bits stuck to the bottom after making the coconut oil. Also, there should be enough oil to coat all the grains.
Measure out the other can of coconut milk and add enough water to end up with a total of 5 cups. Pour it over the rice, make sure to loosen any grains stuck to the bottom. Stir in the salt, about 2-3 teaspoons and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Make sure to stir it all very well and quickly; you don’t want to be stirring once it begins to boil.
After the liquid has dried, add the raisins to the top, lower the temperature to low heat and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Allow it to steam for at least 30 minutes before removing the lid. Don’t, under any circumstances, remove the lid before that.
At the end of the 30 minutes, you can stir in the raisins. It is ready to serve. The coconut flavor will intensify after a day. That’s why this recipe is for 3 cups, to make sure you’ll have some leftovers!