Coconut 101

I was working on updating a classic American recipe for my Paleo Magazine column this weekend and realized I had no idea how to properly prepare a fresh coconut. After a little research and some tinkering in my test kitchen, this what I came up with. If you’ve never eaten fresh coconut, you really owe it to yourself to give a go!

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place the coconut on a kitchen towel for traction. Pierce the three “eye” holes on top of the coconut by gently tapping a clean screwdriver with a hammer. This is much easier than it seems.

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Drain the water from the coconut and put it in the oven, directly on the oven rack, for 10 minutes.

Remove the coconut from the oven, wrap it in a kitchen towel, place it in the sink, and smack it with a hammer to crack the shell. The white coconut meat should easily pop out of the thick husk. You might need to bash the pieces a few times to break them into smaller, more manageable pieces; wrap the pieces in the towel every time.

Now, you can either remove the thin brown skin with a vegetable peeler or just leave it on. I left mine on because I’m mostly lazy, and it didn’t affect the taste or texture.

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Now you can either shred the coconut in a food processor or with a box grater, or make “chips” with a mandoline slicer (so later you can make these Caramelized Coconut Chips). Store the shredded/chipped coconut in a covered container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.

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Get toasty: If you want to toast the shredded coconut, preheat the oven to 350F, spread the coconut in a single layer on a baking sheet, and toast for 5-8 minutes. Keep an eye on it! It can go from blah to burnt in a blink.

 

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