Coconut rice upstages a lobster main course; Entertaining: Side dish with tropical accents is so delectable it puts even the shellfish in the shade.


Typically when planning the menu for a company dinner, I choose the main course first and then decide on the side dishes. Sometimes, however, when I have a special accompaniment in mind, I reverse this process. That's exactly what I did several days ago while deciding what to serve my son and his girlfriend for Sunday-night supper.

Earlier in the week I had cooked long-grain jasmine rice in coconut milk and then stirred in some diced mangoes, grated lime zest, chopped pistachios and cilantro. My husband was so enamored of this creation that I decided to serve it again.

Coconut milk adds a delicious yet subtle sweetness to this rice, while lime zest counters with a citrus note. The fresh, juicy mango and crunchy nuts impart interesting flavors and textures. Since this Asian-style rice dish was packed with varied tastes, I knew that simple foods would be best to accompany it.

After much consideration, I went to the store and bought lobsters to serve with lemon and melted butter. I also picked up some green beans.

Even though one would expect lobsters to take center stage at any meal, the rice was the real star at this one. The secret ingredient in this recipe is coconut milk, which is not the liquid found in the center of a coconut (that's coconut juice). And it is not the cream of coconut used for pina coladas.

Coconut milk is a mixture of shredded fresh or dried coconut meat combined with water and no sugar.

Its one drawback is that it has a high fat content. But in this rice recipe, I replaced half the usual amount of coconut milk with stock to keep the dish lower in fat.

In addition to being an excellent garnish to shellfish such as lobster or shrimp, this coconut rice also would be delicious offered with grilled chicken or lamb chops or with roasted pork. And, it can be doubled easily to feed more.

Coconut Rice With Mango and Pistachios

Serves 5-6

1 1/2 cups coconut milk (see note)

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 cups jasmine rice or long grain rice (see note)

3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed

1 ripe mango, peeled and cut into thick slices

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 teaspoon grated lime peel

1/2 cup chopped unsalted pistachios

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Stir coconut milk well to blend and pour into large, heavy saucepan with lid. Add chicken stock and whisk to combine. Place over medium-high heat and bring to boil. Add rice and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to simmer, then lower heat. Cover and cook until all liquid has been absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir several times to prevent rice from sticking to bottom of pan.

While rice is cooking, cut each mango slice into 1/4 -inch dice. Discard large pit. Place mango in small bowl and toss with lime juice.

When rice is done, remove from heat and stir in mango (along with any juice in bowl), lime peel, pistachios and cilantro. Mix well. Taste and add more salt if needed. Mound rice in serving bowl and serve warm.

Note: Coconut milk is available in most markets, often in the section where foreign ingredients are displayed. Jasmine rice is a long grain rice available in many markets. If you cannot find it, American long grain rice will work fine.

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