Long time ago, in a kitchen far away, Martha Stewart Living had an article about Jamaican jerk chicken, which I'm not a huge fan of. The article also featured Jamaican rice and peas, and that looked very very interesting because it was made with coconut milk. She was going for a sweeter, milder version of the dish to counter the spiciness of the jerk.
We love rice and beans as a side dish at my house, so I tried her version. It was delicious—the coconut milk really made it something special—but a little labor intensive for a weekday (click here for the recipe).
The next time I reached for a bag of Vigo black rice and beans, I decided to apply Martha's twist. Rice and bean mixes usually call for 3 1/4 cups of water. I used a can of lite coconut milk which is right about 2 cups, and then topped off with water. Instead of butter or olive oil, I used coconut oil. A huge success and now I make packaged rice and beans no other way.
One night as I was making this, our Horizon Meat delivery man Tony showed up at the door. It was cold and it was late and he's a great guy so while he was chatting up Jeeps I put a couple spoonfuls of rice and beans into a ramekin and brought it over to him. His eyes lit up, he took a bite and then his eyes got even bigger.
"There's coconut milk in here! How do you know to use coconut in rice and beans?"
I was shocked that he'd picked that up right away and he told us his ex-wife was West Indian. This was the only way he knew rice and beans to taste, he was just shocked that, pardon him, a white girl would know. It was a good laugh and some nice validation.
I'll use coconut milk to make plain rice as well. After a lot of trial and error, I find that it's best to use more liquid than you typically would when making regular rice, more of a 3 parts liquid/1 part rice ratio. I also add a tablespoon of coconut oil because it's just so damn good. The rice will be very creamy, almost sticky. If you wish, grate in some lime zest before serving.
If you have leftover coconut rice, or any kind of rice for that matter, try mixing it with an egg and some chopped scallions, parsley or cilantro. Form into patties and fry in olive oil until golden on both sides. Quick and delicious with a salad or soup.