Technique Thursday: Conch

    I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be eating the flesh of a giant slug this week (here’s a crazy photo). But that’s probably the yuckiest way to look at the whole thing. In reality, this large creature lives in a beautiful shell (prized by the Victorians I might add) and is happily eaten throughout the Caribbean. Although I had my fears, I quickly learned that proper cooking makes conch (pronounced “konk”) tasty and even worthwhile.
    (Photo by Pratheep PS)
    If you aren’t in the Bahamas you’re probably going to have to buy frozen conch (most good fish markets carry frozen conch).
    The good news?
    Frozen conch (usually) comes cleaned for you. No icky black stuff, no eyes, just pristine white flesh. I was beyond thrilled to discover this.
    About the texture:

    Conch meat is thick and, well, meaty. Things to watch out for:

    – the flesh should be white. Gray areas indicate age and/or spoilage.
    – the scent should be clean, even sweet. The conch is no good if it smells strongly of fish.

    So, you’ve heard conch is just like rubber?

    Here’s the deal when working with conch… it is delicious when prepared properly. Those people who say it tastes like rubber? They had some poorly prepared conch. Here’s your options:

    Don’t cook it/barely cook it:

    This isn’t the best idea if you’re eating frozen conch meat. However, if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some fresh conch, feel free to pound it with a mallet, dice it up, and toss with lime juice, peppers, onions, and whatever else you like. Quick, easy, delicious ceviche.

    The fine line between raw and rubber scares me a little though…. so I prefer to….

    Cook the heck out of it:

    I like a bigger margin of error, which is why I chose to make Conch Chowder this week. “Rubbery” conch finally begins to break down into enjoyable morsels somewhere around 2-3 hours of simmering. This means you can make a really good stew or chowder, where all the flavors mingle, as long as you don’t rush the process. I let my conch chowder simmer for 5 hours and the texture got better and better as the hours ticked by.

    What if you really don’t want to eat Conch?

    Substitute Lobster. Just don’t cook the heck out of lobster or you’ll have wasted a heck-ton of money!


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