If the weather where you live was anything like the weather where I live this past weekend, this post is for you. Hopefully it will liven things up on your Monday morning, even if you are still staring at snow out your window.
Today we are talking coconut. Not the pre-shredded, fancy flake stuff you find bag upon bag of in the baking aisle at the grocery store. Nope, today we are all about the real thing. I am going to teach you both how to crack a coconut and then what to do with it after. To tell you the truth, I had never bought nor cracked a whole coconut until yesterday. There’s a first time for everything, right? I figured if Bobby Flay could do it in 5 seconds flat on Iron Chef, there was no reason I could not give it a try either. Seriously, I am not even being sarcastic here (and my level of disdain for Mr. Flay is quite high – sure he knows how to make lots of money but I am not convinced that his cooking skills are anything to rave about. There is no way that he actually makes a better dish than his rival in every single TV cooking competition he ever enters. It’s rigged, I tell you). So with that in mind, if he can do it, we all can too. Cracking coconuts, that is. Getting rich on the Food Network is a different story.
So step 1, go get yourself a coconut. Step 2, grab the heaviest cleaver you have, along with a big bowl to put in the sink. For me, the best part about using a fresh coconut was getting to drink the coconut water. You don’t want to lose a single drop of it down the drain (hence the bowl). Now for the fun part, getting out all of your aggression on that poor coconut. Hold the coconut in one hand and the cleaver in the other (preferably your dominant one). Using the BACK of the cleaver, please not the sharp side – that has the potential to lead to an ER visit – start whacking the coconut around the equator, basically as hard as you can. Keep going until it cracks in half. In probably a minute or less, you are done. See? Wasn’t hard at all.
No, in fact the most difficult part is getting the meat out of the shell. To do so, heat your oven to around 350-400F and pop the halved coconut in there. It will take about 10-15 minutes for the meat to shrink away from the shell. When there is enough space for you to pry a spoon in there to wedge it out, you are good to go. Let it cool a bit before prying a spoon in there and wedging it out. You didn’t see that one coming, did you? PS. Don’t forget about that coconut water that’s still sitting in the bowl in your sink. Strain it through a coffee filter or even a paper napkin to get rid of any sediment and drink up!
Back to the coconut meat/flesh/whatever you want to call it. It’s perfectly acceptable eaten as is, but toast it up and it really makes the whole process worth your efforts. I did 2 variations on this. First, I cut some of it into chunks, tossed it with brown sugar and baked at 350F until the sugar melted and the coconut started to brown slightly. I also shaved some of it into strips with a vegetable peeler and again toasted it at 350F until golden, about 5-10 minutes. Whereas the first variation is totally a snack, the second is more for garnishing desserts, say, coconut cream pie? Either way, if it doesn’t get eaten relatively soon, you should probably refrigerate it so the oils don’t go rancid. I cannot imagine that would be very pleasant.
Brown sugar chunks – BEFORE.
Brown sugar chunks – AFTER.
The fanciest of fancy-flake shreds – BEFORE.
The fanciest of fancy-flake shreds – AFTER.
So if you feel ready (and you are, I’m telling you so), go get yourself a coconut and get cracking! Pun totally intended.