We all have them. A particular dish or beverage we indulge in when we are craving a taste of home, of the familiar, of times gone by, of childhood, of a special evening, of a summer picnic or particular holiday.
I have a laundry list of these special tastes in my gustatory memory.
And when I feel a bit nostalgic or melancholic, I reach for any one of those culinary Linus blankets, the kind that can make one feel cozy and warm and toasty and giddy. The kind that also, somehow, serves to shorten the distance between loved ones, especially those far from us this time of the year, out there on the opposite coast.
Last Saturday the usual suspects-- friends and neighbors, a family of sorts--were getting together for dinner right here in our building. Some of us were cooking but all of us were bringing something to the table.
So I made flan and Coquito.
Coquito or Ron con Coco (Rum with Coconut) is a very tropical, rummy, redolent of spices and extremely coco-nutty eggnog that is quite popular around the holidays.
I make it more than once a year and when I do I make it to share not only because it is absolutely delicious but because every single time I had Coquito in the past it was always at a family gathering or at a party with very good friends.
The traditional family recipe calls for the flesh of two large coconuts and it involves a lot of elbow grease. Finding the freshest, nicest coconuts available, cracking them, opening them, separating the dark skin from the snow white pulp, grating and blitzing said pulp in a blender with the rum.
Oy! It can be a tricky, tiresome and very messy affair.
Or you can just buy a can of Coco López, that delicious--and extremely convenient-- cream of coconut and skip the trip to the beach, the machete and the guerrilla tactics altogether. For a fresher and healthier coconut taste, I purchase Trader Joe's Coconut Milk or the organic coconut milk sold at Whole Foods.
Coquito my way is mainly a pouring of all the spices, liquid ingredients and egg yolks into the bowl of a blender and a blitzing of said mixture into oblivion.
The key is to use VERY good spirits. And if you, like me, want to spice things up a bit, use the best Bourbon you have around. I find the combination of dark rum and bourbon perfection and much better than the traditional white rum-only version.
For this particular batch I used the last of my 80% proof Austrian rum--a gift from a neighbor who was moving back to Austria and gifted me with a half bottle of his very special, old and potent rum, the one he used to soak the raisins for his famous cookies and rum cake.
Into the mix went a generous amount of Bacardi 1873--not the Solera kind but a bottle I purchased in San Juan about 10 years ago when you could only find this at the distillery's shop.
Lastly, I reached for the bottle of Maker's Mark Kentucky Bourbon I've been saving (who wants to break that pretty red wax seal?) since a trip to Louisville a few years ago.
And yes, you can make this Coquito without the spirits but really, what's the point? It needs at least a bit of rum to achieve that beachy, sandy and warm tropical taste.
Ideally you'll have a couple tall, sterile clean bottles (great way to recycle empty wine or rum bottles) around to hold the contents of the blender. You can use a pretty (large please, this serves about 12) pitcher too.
Make it ahead of time so you can refrigerate it (overnight if possible) to give time for all the ingredients to meld together and thicken a bit more.
Pour it onto pretty glasses, sprinkle with nutmeg or cinnamon, garnish with cinnamon sticks. Now sit somewhere cozy and observe those around you. Just make sure you get your own glass before you do. And sip your Coquito slowly. Don't expect leftovers either.I doubt there will be a chance for seconds. Take my word for it.
1 can Coco López
1 can evaporated milk
1 can condensed milk
4 large *egg yolks
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoon vanilla
pinch of salt
Dark Rum (to taste)
Bourbon (to taste)
Pour all liquids, spices and egg yolks into the bowl of a blender. Using the "liquefy" mode, blend until completely combined, smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust the spices and spirits as needed. Pour into bottle or pitcher. Seal or cover and refrigerate. Overnight if possible.
To serve: Pour into glasses, sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg and cinnamon stick.
*The freshest eggs are a must. Visit a local farmers market and find organic, free range eggs if at all possible.