1. The coconut. Hull and peel the coconut as directed on page 341, reserving and straining the liquid. Grate the meat (it should be medium-fine).
2. Cooking the coconut. Measure the coconut liquid and add enough tap water to bring the total quantity to 1 cup. Place the grated coconut in a medium-size, heavy saucepan, store in the liquid and sugar and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the coconut becomes transparent (it will look almost candied) and the liquid has reduced to a glaze, 20 to 30 minutes longer, to evaporate its liquid, then remove from the fire.
3. Thickening the cocada. Beat the yolks with the milk or cream, stir in several tablespoons of the hot coconut, then carefully stir the warm yolk mixture into the coconut remaining in the pan. Return to medium -low heat and stir constantly until lightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Scrape the cocada into an ovenproof serving dish.
4. Browning the finished cocada. Spread the almonds onto baking sheet and toast in a 325 oven until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
Shortly before serving, heat the broiler. Dot the cocada with butter, run under the heat and let brown for a minute or so. Watch carefully: The sugar in the cocada will caramelized very quickly. Strew with the toasted almond slices and the dessert is ready to serve.
Techniques Thickening the cocada: After the egg-yolk mixture goes into the hot coconut, make sure the heat under your pan isn't too high, or the yolks can curdle . In no case should the coconut mixture come near a boil.
Coconut: Desiccated coconut is inappropriate here.
Timing and Advance Preparation
If you work quickly, the coconut can be prepared in 45 minutes (including the initial 15 minutes more and the cocada will be ready. It may be completed through Step 3, covered and refrigerated for 2 or 3 days. Let it warm to room temperature, then brown shortly before serving.