Coconut is where it’s at! The flavor, the texture, the smell–they all add so much to just about any variety of food. But have you ever opened a coconut? Let alone tried to get all the juicy “meat” out of it? Let us be the first to tell you…it’s the most! We are always seeking out new things to do in the kitchen, and the furry, rock-hard fruit seemed like the next perfect conquest. Here’s a quickie lesson!
: Crack her open. Easy right? Well that’s what we thought too. After a little Google search, we were baffled at the various methods
prescribed to accomplish such a task. We should have known we were heading into dangerous territory when the supply lists on the web included a meat cleaver, hammer and nails (wait, hammer and nails!?!?), cork screw, ice pick, concrete step, brick, rooftop, etc. As daunting as all of this sounds, there was an easy method that worked wonders…well, kinda. Again, we acknowledge all the numerous possibilities in which one can open the coconut–by all means, please get out the hammer if you wanna get down–but this is what worked for us
A. Hold the coconut in the palm of your hand over a sink or large bowl. The bowl will catch the coconut juice when the coconut splits open.
B. Note the seams that runs between the “eyes”, the black indentations on top. Follow the seam to the equator, or center, of the coconut. Using the blunt edge (not the blade) of a heavy knife (a chef’s knife is what we used, but you can use a meat cleaver or machete if you just happen to have one lying around), tap firmly around its equator as you rotate the coconut in the palm of your hand. Tap like you mean it!
C. Continue to tap and rotate until the coconut splits completely open. If it’s done right, the coconut will break open after just a few turns into two equal halves.
So now it’s open. Yay! Celebrate by taking a sip of the delicious coconut water, but don’t get too excited because your work is just beginning.
Step #2: Extract the meat. *deep sigh* This was the least fun part for us. It’s easier, though, if you break the coconut into smaller pieces. And, baking the bits in the oven does help separating it from the shell. But it’s took us a minute to do (a looong minute).
A. Cover the coconut with a dish towel and break into small chunks using the blunt part of the same knife (or other instrument) used to crack it open.
B. Roast the pieces in a pre-heated oven at 350 for 15-20 minutes.
C. Once it’s cool enough to handle, using a spoon, dull knife or butter knife, cut through the meat all the way to the shell. Prying a bit will pop strips and chunks out. (Sometimes it’s possible to get underneath the meat with a spoon and pry away from the shell progressively.)
*phew* Good luck. All of this appears just dandy on paper, but in reality it’s not a quick process. It’ll probably take a while to do, so if you’re in a hurry be forewarned. And of course some words of caution: Please don’t hurt yourself in the process of opening the coconut or separating it from the shell. You want to use enough force that makes a dent in the nut, but not enough where you loose control of your instrument and it causes you to harm yourself, or someone else. And make sure you drain all the water before you roast it. And please don’t bite into when it’s still on the shell–not so good on your teeth!
Once it’s all said and and done, you can take the coconut pieces and puree them in a food processor. Strain it and you have homemade coconut milk! Or you can grate them and add it to whatever it is you did all that work for–like, Coconut Pancakes with Cinnamon Pineapple Syrup and Rum Ricotta Cheese Whipped Cream and Caramelized Plantains. Mmmmm. Yeah, that hard work was worth it for that! Next time, though, we’ll buy the coconut water, milk, and bits all ready to go–and leave the meat cleaver in the drawer.
Coconut Pancakes – Yields 8-12 pancakes
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for cooking
3/4 cup coconut milk or juice from a fresh coconut
1/2 cup milk
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum
1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup fresh coconut, grated
1. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the egg yolks, melted butter, milk, lime, rum and vanilla.
2. Combine the liquid and dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. Mix together only until flour is just incorporated.
3. In a small bowl, beat egg whites and apple cider vinegar with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter just until incorporated. Let set for 15 minutes and gently fold in the coconut. Be careful not to over beat the batter, otherwise the pancakes will be firm and tough.
4. Brush nonstick pan or cast iron griddle with a small amount of butter or cooking oil and heat over medium heat (325 degrees if using an electric griddle). (We like to use a paper towel to spread the butter over the whole pan or griddle.)
5. Pour 1/4 cup of the batter onto the griddle and cook until bubbles appear on the top surface and the bottom is golden brown, about 1 -1 1/2 minutes. Flip over and cook until the bottom is lightly golden brown, about 45 seconds. Keep them warm in a low oven.
Cinnamon Pineapple Syrup – Approx. 2 cups
1 stick cinnamon
Zest and juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup crushed pineapple
1 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon light rum
1. Bring all ingredients to a simmer over low heat.
2. Cook about 10 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat, strain, and serve warm or at room temperature. (Can be made overnight.)
Caramelized Plantains – Serves 4
2 ripe plantains
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons light brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1. Cut ends off plantain and peel and slice in half lengthwise.
2. Melt butter over medium heat, add plantains and cook for 10 minutes (you don’t want to move them too frequently otherwise it won’t caramelize as well, flipping halfway).
3. Once you flip the plantains, sprinkle with light brown sugar (depending on the ripeness/sweetness of the plantains, adjust the sugar amount) and salt. The plantains should be nice and golden.
Rum Ricotta Cheese Whipped Cream – Approx. 1 1/2 cups
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar (or to taste)
1 tablespoon rum
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1. Use an electric mixer or whisk to beat whipping cream until it begins to thicken.
2. Add sugar and rum. Continue to whisk until desired consistency.
3. Fold whipped cream into ricotta cheese.
Dollop pancakes with ricotta whipped cream and smother with desired amount of pineapple syrup. Sprinkle with grated coconut and walnuts if you like! Serve caramelized plantains alongside pancakes.
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