Last night we did dinner for six plus two cute munchkins. We served DIY Vietnamese fresh spring rolls with all of the fixings, shrimp, basil, mint, egg strips, honey-roasted pork, crunchy cucumbers, sprouts, and two different dipping sauces. We just crowded everyone around the table, jumping up to grab something from the other side of the table, retrieve a soaking rice wrapper, or check on a munchkin.
The table looked magnificent. The kitchen looked scary. This is one of those meals that is insanely easy to pull off and make it look like a million bucks but I would recommend that one starts chopping and washing the veggies more than 2 hours before service, oops I mean dinner time. (too much Top Chef watching at Chez Dumm!)
You can do the whole thing in under two hours but your kitchen might look like a vegetable garden exploded in it if you do.
I think we scared the good people who tried to help us clear dinner plates and couldn’t find even one single square centimeter of clear counter space to put them on. Even the washer and dryer (hey, they are large and horizontal) were already covered in dishes and strips of cucumber peel.
In any case, our exploding kitchen isn’t the real story here. The real story is dessert.
For dessert I had planned on Thai: Mangos with sticky rice. I diligently started soaking my rice in coconut milk on Friday night, but when we went to market (make that 3 markets and 2 fruit stands) we realized there were no mangos to be had. Ah, the curses of eating seasonally and locally! 🙂
So we needed a plan b, preferably something that wouldn’t waste the massive amounts of coconut-soaked rice I had soaking in the kitchen.
I found this recipe on Epicurious, but decided it needed a twist. I remember this fantastic tapioca dessert we had in Malaysia. At first taste, it was just a slightly salty pile of coconut and chewy goo. Then they poured on the palm sugar syrup and oh wow. That was salty, sweet, smoothness on a plate.
I wanted something like that so I fiddled and futzed and came up with the recipe below. This isn’t totally precise since I was high on improvising and low on time, but at the end of it you should have a smooth, rich pudding and a deep brown sauce to drizzle on to your desired level of sweetness. A sliver of macaroon and a dash of cinnamon round things off and voila! An upscale take on rice pudding that is do-ahead and comes together in a flash regardless of how much or how little counter space you have left.
Coconut Sticky Rice Pudding with Macaroon and Sugar Sauce
To Make the Macaroons (from Epicurious with a few adaptations)
These macaroons kind of make the dish because of the texture contrast (and the yumminess) you can make them up to a few days ahead and just store in an airtight container
1 large egg white
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond or citrus extract
Pinch of salt
2-2.5 cups dried coconut flakes (unsweetened if you can)
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and line a sheet pan with either parchment paper or a silpat.
Whisk together egg white and sugar in a medium size bowl until slightly foamy. Add in extract, salt and then incorporate coconut flakes until all of the coconut is coated in the egg white mixture.
Pour coconut egg mixture onto prepared pan and spread thinly and evenly. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until edges are a deep brown and the center is light brown.
Allow macaroon sheet to cool to room temperature then cut into strips or triangles about 1-2 inches wide and 3 inches long. (A scissors works great for this). Set aside in an airtight container.
Coconut Rice Pudding
1 cup sticky rice, soaked overnight in coconut milk and water (count on using 1 can)
3 12 oz cans of unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 Cup dried coconut shreds (this I would consider optional, I sort of felt like they interrupted the smooth pudding texture)
The night before, put 1-1.5 cups of sticky rice to soak in a mixture of coconut milk and water. Make sure there is enough liquid for the rice to be fully submersed.
In a large pot combine 3 12oz cans of unsweetened coconut milk and the rice and soaking liquid. Add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 2/3 cup dried coconut if you are using it.
Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
Turn the heat to medium-low and cover partially. Simmer and stir frequently for another 30-40 minutes or until rice is completely soft and the mixture looks thick with very little excess liquid floating at the top.
If serving immediately, portion into bowls. Otherwise, stash the covered pot in a cool part of your kitchen for up to a few hours. Rewarm over low heat for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Brown Sugar/Palm Sugar Syrup
1/2 Cup dark brown sugar or palm sugar (the darker the sugar, the better, feel free to throw in a little molasses if you have to)
1/4 Cup water
Combine water and sugar in saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn heat down and allow to simmer for another 5-10 minutes until mixture is slightly reduced. (This recipe is easily doubled or tripled).
Scoop about 3/4 cup of pudding into a bowl, sprinkle with cinnamon and stick 2-3 macaroons in around the edges. Serve along side a small pitcher or serving bowl filled with sugar syrup to let guests put in as much (or as little) sweetness as they like. This pudding is not at all sweet without the syrup but a few tablespoons or so make it very much so.