Thursday, August 7, 2008

Killer Coconuts!!!

More people die from Coconuts each year than Shark Attacks!? (play along -- or go ahead and Google it**)
Exact revenge on the coconuts! When someone is attacked by a shark, people often try to fish-out the sharks, hoping that maybe they'll get the "man-eater". What about these killer coconuts? More deadly than a shark, yet we seem to trust them? Kids don't have nightmares about them. Movies aren't made about them. There's no scary, coconut theme-music. Yet they may be deadly, just the same. In this post, I will instruct you on how to get even with the coconut, while making some nice coconut milk and coconut oil for your next Thai dish.
I mentioned in earlier posts that coconuts are seabeans that have been distributed around the world as a crop. They have been highly successful, often overtaking native habitat (another reason to seek retribution from the plant).
I often buy coconut products to cook with (plus they are in suntan oils and other products) but being from Montana and living in Washington state, I don't often prepare fresh coconut. In fact, until living on this island, I did not realize how coconut milk and oil were made. Thus, I've created this post for those of you that could be on an island with little to eat while surrounded by plenty of deadly coconuts as well as those of you hell-bent on evening the score.

Let's get started!

First, climb a coconut tree (see video below) to get sweetest coconut water.
  • Coconut Palm climbing tip #1: Approach the tree nonchalantly, so it doesn't suspect anything.
  • Coconut Palm climbing tip #2:Use your hands to pull your feet into the tree.
  • Coconut Palm climbing tip #3: Use bare feet, or sandals, or shoes. (I've tried all three and I suck equally in each, but the way that I suck differs.)
  • Coconut Palm climbing tip #4: Pick a tree that has a good lean to it.
  • Coconut Palm climbing tip #5: Pick a short tree.

  • Coconut Palm climbing tip #6: Screw tree climbing! Realize that it's not worth climbing a bloody tree and it's better to grab a coconut from the ground before you fall and get hurt (not to mention the embarrassment of getting mocked by a damn tree).
  • Coconut Palm climbing tip #7: Feel further justified in wimping out on the tree climb because you don't want such green coconuts to make the coconut milk and coconut oil anyway. (You will miss out on the sweet water, but you still have intact femurs, tibias, and fibulas).
-The next several steps are demonstrated in a short, instructional film below.

Compromise the Facade

Now that you stopped being so foolish and you have a captured coconut in your hands, you'll need to get past the tough, outer husk to teach the coconut a lesson. The coolest way to open a coconut husk is with a machete. Unfortunately, I've never been skilled at cool. There are two issues that you should be aware of if you're going to use a machete: 1) have one that is sharp (unlike mine) and 2) don't be afraid of cutting your hand off. The second tip is the most important. After making this video I opened another coconut quickly by hitting very hard while holding the coconut on the ground. Lose your fears and the husk will be no match for your awesome, brute-strength.
  • Super Coconut-opening Tip#1: It's better to have someone that knows what they're doing open it for you.
Make it Crack
Tearing it's husk off, has left the coconut vulnerable. ATTACK!! (Since coconuts are not protected by the treaties of the Geneva Convention --what's that??-- , you're in the clear.) This part is easy. Slam the back of your machete into the side of the nut until it cracks and spills out in your hands. This is the funnest part!

Grind It Down
You've done it. You made it spill its "guts." Now it is weak. Strike the heart of the beast! Grind it down! Exact sweet revenge by grinding the coconut tree's offspring into little bits using the coconut grinder that you installed on your back porch last summer.
  • Super Coconut Grinding Tip #1: Strike fear into high-level individuals by making the trees watch.
Milk It for All It's Worth
Having reduced the coconut to mere shavings, squeeze everything you can out of it. You don't know how much milk you're going to need from this coconut. Every drop could be useful. To do this, pour water on the shavings (it will probably feel like it's drowning at this point) and then squeeze them over a strainer into a bowl. Now you have coconut milk! Wasn't that easy? Add this milk directly to sauces (see recipe at the end of this post) for a rich flavor. You can immediately cook the milk down to make coconut oil (details below), or you can follow the optional step below.


Scrape Away the Final Layers (optional)
You'd think that's all you could do to a coconut, but NO there is more. Here's where you have to make a decision. Are you tired? Do you need a rest? If so, then let the milk sit overnight and let it separate on its own. Think of it as a sensory deprivation tank, if you need to continue running with this revenge thing. The fat will float on top and the water will be underneath. Next, scrape the fat off of the top and get ready for the final steps.

Final Execution -- Make it Fry
This is the final insult to the coconut -- making coconut oil. Take the scraped-off fat, or the coconut milk that you made, and begin cooking it over high heat. Stir regularly once the milk or fat forms small white masses that begin to stick to the pan. You should see a clear layer of oil forming in the pan at this point. Continue cooking the fat until it turns slightly brown. DO NOT MAKE THE OIL BROWN! Finally, strain the oil from the browned pieces and you have great-smelling, yummy, fatty coconut oil. (I didn't eat the remaining brown pieces, but apparently they are REALLY good too!).
Here's a recipe for coconut milk that I use often. I learned it from watching Hugh Powell cook some rockin' chicken. I've modified it some.
Note: all measurements are make-believe, but may work.
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2/3 jar of red curry paste (small jar)
  • 2/3 cup of peanut butter
  • 1 TBS fish sauce
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 TBS coconut oil
Cook the chicken breast and cut into small pieces. At the same time, cook down the garlic and onions in oil until they are brown. Start the sauce by warming the coconut milk, yogurt, cayenne, peanut butter, curry paste and peanut butter over low heat in a mid-sized pot. Add the onions, garlic, and chicken to the sauce and let it simmer until you're ready to eat. The longer the better, but the sauce will get really thick! Serve with brown rice and stir fried vegetables for fiber (coconut milk is loaded with fat. We want to look out for your blood lipid levels.) . Hugh uses this sauce to cover chicken legs and then he BBQs them. That's also a good option.

**Back to the shaky premise of this post.....I don't think that there are any real data available on coconut deaths per year, but if you do a search on "coconut deaths" one made-up number dominates the web -- 150/year. In fact it was one of the first "facts" that I was told when I arrived on the island was that more people die from falling coconuts than shark attacks. There really aren't any data to support that. It's not real. It seems to stem from a paper published in 1984 that doesn't even discuss coconut fatalities. The paper was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize stemming from the Annals of Improbable Research which recognizes research "that cannot, or should not, be reproduced."
Through diplomacy and mutual respect, we can peacefully make coconut milk and coconut oil. And we can stop fearing the coconut. Then, when you are full on coconut sauces. Take a nap. Just don't be stupid. Just as you wouldn't wear a raw seal-meat vest while swimming clumsily off the Farallon Islands (type Farallon Islands into Google to see why) for goodness-sake don't nap, loiter or yodel for long periods under a coconut tree, especially during a wind storm.

And if you're honestly worried about people dying of tragic things, then consider these numbers:
  • There are approximately 15 reported deaths due to shark attack each YEAR.
  • Every 3.5 MINUTES 15 children (mostly under 2 years old) die from diarrhea.
  • Every 4 MINUTES 15 people die from malaria (mostly children).
  • Every 4 MINUTES 15 people die from HIV/AIDS.
Sharks don't kill many people per year and neither do coconuts, so LEAVE THE SHARKS ALONE! Of course I don't need to tell you that a shark attack will get hours of media attention--death from diarrhea doesn't.


Nicole said...

That was, without exception, the most delighful thing ever published on the interwebs.

Anonymous said...

excellent i really enjoyed. thanks.