The coconut has been vanquished! With a little help from Steve Raichlan's Miami Spice, a hammer, a screwdriver, a knife, and a food processor, my brown hairy-yak nut is now reduced to 3 1/2 cups of grated coconut meat, 2 cups of which are soaking in hot water to make coconut milk, and the rest sitting in the fridge, waiting to be added to the crust and filling of the upcoming choco-coconut pie.
Actually getting into a coconut is not that big a deal, as it turns out. First, poke out the "eyes" with a screwdriver. Drain the liquid inside, which tastes like salty coconut-flavored water, which is what it is. You can drink it straight, or mixed with rum and a dash of bitters, if you're feeling all Jake-Barnes-in-Cuba-ish.
Then you put your now-empty coconut on a good hard shock-absorbing surface, like a cutting board inside a baking sheet on the floor. Be sure to warn your downstairs neighbors before you start the next part, otherwise you'll be that mysteriously noisy Person Upstairs, the one seemingly running a bowling alley in her apartment.
Now whack, whack, whack with a hammer until the nut starts to crack in pieces. The heavy hairy shell should pry easily from the brown-skinned nut inside. Once you've got all the husk off, you grab a small, sturdy knife or heavy-duty vegetable peeler and scrape all the brown skin off--it's a lot like peeling a butternut squash, and just about as boring.
You're left with a pile of bright white flesh with a pleasant, apple-y crispness. (I wanted to like it, really, except for the part about it tasting like coconut. Damn.) Now, if you have a lot of time on your hands, you can rub each and every piece through the small holes on a box grater. Or you can shove them all into the tube of your food processor, tricked out with the grating attachment, and get a bowlful of grated coconut in less than a minute.
Measure out a 1 to 1 ratio of boiling water to grated coconut (that is, 1 cup water to 1 cup coconut) and let the coconut steep in the water for 15 minutes. LIne a sieve with cheesecloth, dump in the coconut mixture, and squeeze out all the liquid. Voila! Fresh coconut milk. Refrigerate like regular milk.
Ok, I'm very tired now. More later.