I brought conch home from the store and laid them out on the cutting board. My husband, Kevin, and I inspected the species that looked a cross between slugs and scallops.
I pointed out the conch penises, which are rather large compared to their body sizes. Kevin made a face and diligently cut that partoff. I protested explaining that he was wasting good meat.
“No way,” Kevin retorted, “We’re not eating that!”
Grand Cayman and the Cayman Islands is the homeland of the conch. It is a popular part of the Caribbean diet and culture. It’s healthy; high in protein and low in fat and there are many popular conch dishes including conch fritters, chowders, salads and ceviches
I decided to make conch chowder.
I had found this snail-like mollusk at an Asian superstore. This place was huge. It had everything from Peking duck to durian. Best of all, it had fresh seafood and not the kind you see at your local grocery store. It had large fresh crab, eel, many different kinds of fish and they had live conch.
I grabbed a basket and tongs and helped myself. That’s what you do in this Asian supermarket: you fish out what you want from the tanks and then put your find in a basket to be weighed. The Chinese woman who weighs threw the conch in a bag and handed them to me. I handed them back. I had read that extracting the conch from its shell can be hard laborious work and that you don’t simply want to boil the conch to get them out of their shell because it might ruin the taste of the meat.
I tried to explain all this to the Chinese woman who spoke no English. I somehow got my point across. The woman grunted, grabbed the bag from me and walked away. I then heard very loud banging and she came back with just the conch and no shells.
At home I made the conch chowder with leeks, carrots, onion, potatoes, garlic and cream. It was delicious. Everyone loved the soup. While I ate the conch I dreamed about going to the Caribbean and eating them plucked right out of the ocean.
I decided that I would make this chowder again. Next time I may not even cut that part off.
1 lb chopped conch
1/2 leek, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
1 onion, finely chopped
2 potatoes, cut into small cubes
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups fish stock (I used chicken stock )
2 cups water
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 TBSP butter
1/2 tsp corn starch dissolved in a little water
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
A few drops of Tabasco
Heat the butter in a skillet, sauté the leeks, carrots, onions and garlic for two minutes. Then add wine, cream, water and fish stock. Then add the potatoes, conch and seasonings. Simmer until potatoes are cooked. (I read that one must tenderize the conch meat by pounding it with a mallet. I didn’t do this and my conch meat tasted fine).