Photo: Students in classroom

Cuckoo for Coconuts!

Reasons for buying a whole fresh coconut goes beyond the amazing flavor profile and fresh coconut milk; it is the experience of cracking this tough nut. As some of us know those little brown reminders of Jimmy Buffet music and swaying palms can be difficult to break into, but with a little work and know how the result is a fresh ingredient that has a quality better then any processed bagged stuff.

If you are right-handed, cradle the coconut in your left hand, the eyes pointing towards the top of your fingers. Hold the heavy knife or a meat mallet in your right hand. Make a sharp quick blow to the midsection, with the back of the blade or flat side of the mallet.

This should crack the coconut at its natural fault line. If necessary, rap it again by rotating the coconut just a slight turn. Hit just an inch away from the original blow point. Use the sharp blade of the cleaver to pry in half. Pour the milk into a bowl and reserve for later use. Be very careful to crack the coconut enough that prying will end in an open nut, not an open wound.

The end result is 2 neat bowl-shaped pieces. The first time may not produce perfect halves. Don't despair, the aim is to grate the meat. Continue to break the coconut into pieces that can be grated on a box grater. Continue grating until only the brown shell is left and all of the white meat is in a bowl. Small broken pieces can be a great garnish to any plate that lends it self to an island feel. Repeat with the other half (take turns with your friends so you don’t wear your arm out). Discard the shells or be crafty and polish into a bowl (don't ask me how).

Coconut Chutney

Ingredients

Coconut, freshly grated - 1 cup
Peanut Butter- 1/2 cup
Red Chili Powder- 1/2 teaspoon
Curry Powder - ½ teaspoon
Cilantro Leaves – few (about a bunch of leaves with a little amount of stem)
Mustard Seeds- 1 teaspoon
Sesame Oil- 2 tablespoons
Salt- as desired
Add coconut milk to the desired consistency that will work best for your dish; it should be paste like.

Preparation

Grind all the ingredients (except cilantro leaves, mustard seeds, & oil) together in a food processor or blender, until you get a smooth paste adding the coconut milk for desired smoothness.

Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds and cilantro leaves. Stir quickly until leaves wilt down. Turn off heat and then pour the paste into the pan. Mix well & serve warm.

This is a great accompaniment to grilled fish and kabobs. Couple this with a fresh mango coulis to blow the socks of any guest.

Chef LJ Klink, M.A.; C.E.C.; M.C.F.E.
Former Director & Instructor
The Culinary Arts Institute at Richland
Richland Community College