I made this coconut rice pudding planning to eat it cold.
I was warned about the heat before I moved east for the summer, but growing up in the Pacific Northwest left me helpless. I thought it’d be a little warmer than Seattle, where July is sunny with a breeze. I figured I should probably pack a tank top or two.
I found out summers in New York laugh at summers in Seattle.
It’s hot here, but then again, it’s hot everywhere. I’m not used to this kind of weather, where the heat firms up against your shoulders like wax, and the humidity settles heavy as wool. My apartment is a fourth floor walk-up, which means I always come home out of breath and embarrassingly sweaty. We haven’t figured out how to install the AC yet.
Last weekend, I woke up before the heat crept in. I knew it wouldn’t last long, though, so I decided to cook while I could. I poked around my cabinets and found a can of coconut milk.
I’m surprised by how many people don’t like coconut. I’ve always loved the stuff—so smooth, sweet, and rich. I admire its versatility, delicious whether stirred into curry or scooped straight from the husk, and the smell of toasting coconut is one of my all-time favorites. I especially like it in desserts. Usually, when it’s not too overpowering, the coconut adds an elusive balminess. It shouldn’t taste like sunscreen, but add a special oomph.
I also found some white rice, leftovers from a Chinese take-out night, and that’s when I decided to transform the two into coconut rice pudding.
I like rice pudding because it’s so unfussy. This version is especially convenient. You use pre-cooked rice, which means you don’t need to make any beforehand, and you can throw in whatever you have. You can add any sized can of coconut milk, and make up the rest with skim milk (no heavy cream, half and half, or egg yolks needed!)
I whipped this batch up in thirty minutes flat. But I wasn’t fast enough. As the milk simmered and the rice grew fat with coconut and sugar, the temperature rose in that little kitchen. It was scorching by the time the pudding was thick enough to give a spoon trouble. I thought I’d let it chill completely and eat some after lunch, but ultimately I couldn’t resist a taste.
Wholesome, comforting, creamy, decadent. The coconut was mild—-maybe not even strong enough for a coconut fanatic-—but gorgeously buttery. It was sweet, but not sugary, and luxurious enough to make me feel guilty.
In the end, I ate a piping hot bowl right then and there for breakfast. And that night, I tried a spoonful cold, and it was respectable. But this dessert comes alive when it’s warm. All the flavors breathe, the pudding melts into utter goodness, and your belly heats up like you might boil over with happiness, even if it couldn’t get hotter outside.
Maybe it’s time to install that AC.
[Happy 4th of July!]
[It’s the anniversary of my most popular post ever, my 4th of July Flag Cake from 2009.]
After all that talk about “convenience,” I actually ended up using a vanilla bean, because it was all I had. If you want to go that route, slice one lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and simmer it with the pudding till the end. Otherwise, just stir in the extract.
This dessert is as adaptable as coconut itself. Mine was really simple, but you could add raisins, a splash of rum, coconut flakes, any number of spices, etc…
Coconut Take-Out Rice Pudding
Adapted from Gourmet
Makes 4 generous servings
1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups cold unsalted cooked rice
Enough coconut milk and skim milk to make 3 1/2 cups liquid (I used a 14 oz can of coconut milk)
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Simmer the rice, coconut milk, skim milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the pudding is thick (for me, this took 30 minutes.) Stir in the vanilla extract, and any other mix ins.