Chicken Tropicale with Pineapple Rice Pudding

 You’re not currently sitting in front of your computer, inside while the sun shines outside your window. You’re not paying bills, doing laundry, or trying to figure out what’s for dinner. No, right now, you’re sitting on a beachfront patio on a tropical island, sunglasses tinting your beautiful, breezy ocean world a less blinding shade of bright. You have your favorite book on your lap, and just as you start to feel that guttural uneasiness that goes along with the inkling of hunger, you realize that a plate of delicious grilled coconut-marinated chicken is sitting in front of you, with a creamy, indulgent bowl of pineapple-flavored rice pudding on the side. The chicken is perfectly cooked, not at all dry, and topped with lightly grilled bell and jalapeno peppers to add color and kick to the clean chicken palate; the rice pudding is like a dream come true, sweet and satisfying down to the last bite.

Or, you could be attempting to make this magical, tropical, fantasy-inducing meal the way I did, in a tiny kitchen, half-distracted by dirty dishes. You could be struggling to get the chicken to brown, while the milk in the pudding boils up and over the pan, spilling all over your cook top. And you could be looking down at a fairly liquidy, not very thick at all rice pudding and wondering what could have possibly gone wrong. You could be fairly disheartened that your luscious tropical dream dish didn’t turn out the way it existed in your head – that is, until you take the first bite. Upon this first taste, the stain on the stove will melt away, and your slotted spoon and taste buds will filter out the extra liquid in the rice pudding, leaving sweet perfection in its wake. You will forget all about the harried cooking process, and you’ll be back up in that first paragraph once again, convinced you’re dining on the patio of your beach front bungalo.

 The coconut marinade, which was made with a coconut-flavored rum, was not robust – if you want a very strong taste of coconut, I would use a coconut oil or milk in addition to the rum, though I’ve personally been wary of those two ingredients and the dubious health claims they have adopted. Still, the meal is perfect for summer, even if you don’t detect the coconut – and the pudding, if you’re worried about it being heavy, is absolutely irresistible room temperature or even chilled, making it a very welcome side dish, even in the heat. I did adjust the liquid measurements below to take care of some of the excess liquid I had in my dish. The chicken would be delicious with many other sides, sliced over a salad, made into a sandwich, you name it, and I enjoyed the leftover rice for breakfast with some fresh blueberries added. So, if tropical islands aren’t really your thing, you can still enjoy these two recipes – together or on their own – in any number of ways.

One Year Ago: Israeli S’mores

Chicken Tropicale with Sauteed Peppers, a Floptimism original
Yield: 2 servings

The Ingredients
6-8 ounces chicken breast (boneless, skinless)
¼ cup coconut rum
dash each of chili powder and ground cumin
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 bell pepper, sliced (recommended: red)
1 ½ jalapeno peppers, deseeded & finely diced
dash each of red pepper flakes and ground cumin

The Method
Coat the chicken breasts in the rum, chili powder, and ground cumin, and marinate at least 2 hours (preferably overnight) in the refrigerator.

Heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and slice the chicken into strips. Add the chicken to the pan, cooking 8 minutes per side. Allow the second side to caramelize a little, increasing the heat at the end if necessary, and toss to coat all sides in the caramelized juices and oils before transferring to a serving platter.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a separate sauté pan over medium heat and add the peppers along with the red pepper flakes and cumin. Saute for 10 minutes, stirring only occasionally. Serve atop the chicken.

Pineapple Rice Pudding, adapted from Not Without Salt
Yield: 6-8 servings

The Ingredients
1 cup brown rice
1 ¾ cups water
2 ½ cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup finely chopped pineapple
2 teaspoons coconut rum

The Method
Bring the rice and water to a boil in a medium-large sauce pan, then reduce the heat and cover to simmer 20 minutes. Add the milk, salt, sugar, and cinnamon and allow the mixture to return to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer, uncovered this time, for 20 minutes. Finally, add in the pineapple and rum, continuing to cook on low for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the rice to sit for at least 15 minutes before serving; alternatively, cool completely before storing in an air tight container in the fridge.

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