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Conch in the New Year - but for how long?

Posted: December 30, 2013 - 5:46pm  |  Updated: December 31, 2013 - 10:12am

As I turned two pounds of fresh frozen conch, a gift at Christmas, into conch chowder and conch fritters, much discussion surfaced at the supper table. While diners were aware that Queen conch (strombus gigas) is considered a protected species in Florida and must now be imported into this country, few realized that it has actually been illegal to harvest it in Florida waters (and adjacent Federal waters) since the mid-1980’s. Says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, http://www.fws.gov/international/animals/queen-conch.html: “Queen conch was once found in high numbers in the Florida Keys, but due to a collapse in conch fisheries in the 1970’s, it is now illegal to commercially or recreationally harvest Queen conch in that state. The United States is responsible for the consumption of 80 percent of the world’s internationally traded Queen conch.” Conch meat, including that which I received, comes from some Caribbean and South American countries where harvest is allowed. However, that could end if WildEarth Guardians, an environmental group headquartered in Santa Fe, NM, wins its petition to make Queen conch an endangered species under the USA Endangered Species Act (ESA). Should the petition prevail, the importation of Queen conch into this country from any source, even where conch is responsibly harvested, would be forbidden. On the flip side, in November, The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) made a formal request on behalf of the Caribbean community to the United States-CARICOM Council on Trade and Investment, to reject the petition of WildEarth Guardians. Until a decision is made, it will continue to be legal to purchase and serve conch. Whenever buying seafood of any kind, buy responsibly and with sustainability in mind. For information on the Queen conch issue, visit http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/invertebrates/queenconch.htm; http://www.wildearthguardians.org/site/DocServer/Queen_conch_petition.pd... and http://www.crfm.net/index.php/news/press-release/item/255-reject-queen-c....

 

Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at kitchenade@yahoo.com.

Conch Chowder

¼ pound bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces

1 large Spanish onion, peeled and diced

2 cups diced celery

2 cups diced carrots

1 green bell pepper, seeded, ribbed and diced

1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes

2 quarts clam broth

1 pound conch meat, pounded and diced*

10 small new potatoes, scrubbed and quartered

1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves

Pinch dried red pepper flakes

Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

 

In a large kettle or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until almost crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the onion, celery, carrots and green pepper cooking until vegetables are soft, but not browned. Crush the tomatoes with your hands and add to pot with clam juice, potatoes, thyme and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil; add the conch and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. Add bacon back into pot; adjusting seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

 

Conch Fritters

1 pound conch meat, coarsely chopped

1 small green pepper, finely chopped

1 small red pepper, finely chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 stalks of celery, finely chopped

1 tablespoon lime juice mixed with a dash of hot pepper

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1¾ cups of all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Lime wedges, for serving

Fritter Sauce (recipe follows) 

Mix all ingredients in a food processor to form a sticky paste. Heat oil in a deep fryer to 375 degrees. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drop mixture by tablespoons into hot oil. (Cook one or two fritters first to be sure they hold together, adding more flour to the mixture, as needed.) Cook until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes, turning fritters when they rise to the surface. Drain fritters on paper towels to absorb extra oil before serving. Serve with fresh lime wedges and fritter sauce. Makes 4 servings.

 

4 tablespoons ketchup

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Squeeze of fresh lime

Hot sauce to taste

Blend all ingredients until well combined. If made ahead, store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Conch Ceviche 

Recipe courtesy Keys Fisheries Market & Marina, Marathon, FL

(For additional recipes using conch and other seafood, visit Keys Fisheries Market & Marina at http://www.keysfisheries.com; 1-866-743-4353

1 pound ground conch (available at the Market)

1½ large white onions, chopped

4 large tomatoes, chopped

4 green bell peppers, chopped (green, yellow and red peppers for color)

8 pepperoncini, diced

¼ cup pepperoncini juice

2 cups lime juice (fresh squeezed is best, or use Key West Lime Juice)

Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Wash ground conch and squeeze all excess water out. Place conch in a glass container (do not use metal as an off flavor will occur). Cover ground conch with lime juice and chill for several hours, preferably overnight. Drain excess lime juice not absorbed by conch. (Don’t squeeze it out, just tip the bowl and let excess run off.) Add vegetables, pepperoncini and pepperoncini juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Recommendations: refrigerate for at least 4 hours prior to serving. Keeps great for 4 to 5 days. Serve with crackers (we recommend Triskets!)

Recipe serves 12 to 14.

Sittin' on the Sandbar Key Lime Pie

Crust

2 cups crushed vanilla wafers

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

5 tablespoons melted butter

Filling

8 ounces Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened

2 whole large eggs

2 large egg yolks

1 (15-ounce) can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed milk

¾ cup Coco Lopez (cream of coconut)

¾ cup key lime juice

 

Whipped Cream Topping

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup powdered sugar

Garnish

Lime slices

White chocolate almond bark or white chocolate pieces for sea shells*

 

For the crust: in a bowl, combine vanilla wafer crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press into a 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Allow to cool to the touch before filling.

For the filling: in a medium bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add condensed milk and beat well. Add Key lime juice and Coco Lopez and beat well. Pour into crust. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes or until center is set to the touch. Allow to cool before refrigerating. For the whipped cream topping: in a cold bowl, beat whipping cream and powdered sugar until stiff. Pipe large rosettes around edges.

 

For the white chocolate sea shells: melt white chocolate almond bark or white chocolate pieces in microwave. Pour into sea shell molds.* Chill until set.

*Kitchen Ade note: for the purposes of this recipes, Nordic Ware’s Platinum Sea Shell Tea Cakes Pan was used for making white chocolate sea shells. For information on the pan visit www.nordicware.com.

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