Coquitos, or Puerto Rican Eggnog
While there are countless ways to celebrate the season, there seems to be a general consensus that sweetened milk, enriched by egg yolks, and spiked with spirit, preferably bottled, is a good idea.
Eggnog may have originated in England, but Mexican convents have perfected it as rompope, Cubans have their own sugary version called crema de vie, and Puerto Ricans took the usual blend and infused it with coconut to make coquitos. Though simple enough to make with canned or creamed coconut, there’s a unique satisfaction to cracking open your own coconut, grating the meat, blending in the rum and extracting the flavor directly from the source. Creamy and sweet, the coconut adds a smoothness that sets it apart from heavier custard-in-a-glass alternatives and brings a taste of island life to the holidays. In Puerto Rico, where the parties and observances start early and can continue well into January, there’s always an excuse for just one more.
This recipe calls for freshly grated coconut blended with rum to extract the milk. For a nonalcoholic version, add 1 1/2 cups of hot water instead of rum to the grated coconut and proceed as directed. For a milder flavor, omit the grated coconut and substitute 2 cups of canned coconut milk, blend with remaining ingredients, then stir in the rum to taste.
*Choose a coconut that's heavy for its size. The "eyes," or the three black spots at the stem of the coconut, should be free of mold, and you should be able to hear the liquid inside the coconut when you shake it.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a corkscrew, open the holes in the coconut’s “eyes.” Invert the coconut over a bowl or measuring cup and drain. Reserve the coconut water for another use.
Place the coconuts in the oven for about 10-15 minutes. Carefully remove from oven. Set the coconuts over a dish towel and tap with a hammer or the blunt edge of a knife at its widest point until a fissure opens that will allow you to crack the coconut into large pieces. Use a heavy spoon to scoop out the coconut meat from the hard outer shell. If you’re having trouble cracking the coconut or separating it from its shell, return the coconut to the oven for an additional 5 minutes, then try again. Peel the brown outer layer and chop roughly into large cubes.
Combine about 2 cups of the cubed coconut and the rum in a blender. Pulse on high speed until well combined, about 30 seconds at a time. Strain over cheesecloth into a large bowl or measuring cup, extracting as much liquid as possible. Discard the shredded coconut. Add the extracted liquid to the blender and repeat with the remaining coconut, working in batches. You should have 2-3 cups of coconut milk.
Combine the extracted coconut milk (or canned coconut milk, if using), egg yolks, condensed milk, evaporated milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, and blend on high speed until frothy. Stir in additional rum to taste (optional). Refrigerate until well chilled. Pour into cold glasses and sprinkle with nutmeg or cinnamon.
Ana Sofia Peláez covers the spectrum of Spanish and Latin American cuisine on her blog hungrysofia.com. From the rich smells and flavors of the Cuban food she grew up with to modern Peruvian causas, hearty Brazilian feijodas and delicate Mexican flor de calabaza soup, she’s always looking for her next great meal.