History of Food

History of Food

Friday, June 15, 2012

June 15 - Key West Conch Fritter Day

This is interesting....there are people in this world who do not know what Conch, no less Conch Fritters are.  Since I lived in Florida for so long, I have to tell you I have had Conch Fritters many times and I absolutely salivate every time I think about them. 

Conch is a common name that is applied to a number of different medium to large-sized sea snails or their shells. The term generally applies to large sea snails that have a high spire and a siphonal canal (comes to a point at both ends of the shell).

True conches are marine gastropod molluscs. There are also many species often called "conch" that are not in the species Second in popularity only to the escargot for edible snails, the meat of conches is used as food, either eaten raw, as in salads, or cooked, as in fritters, chowders, gumbos, and burgers. All parts of the conch meat are edible. However, some people find only the white meat appetizing.

Conch fritters are a seafood dish popular in and around the Caribbean islands, particularly around the Bahamas. A large sea snail, the meat of the sea conch is sweet and palatable. It is quite tough and difficult to remove from the animal’s shell, however. The fritters are made using finely chopped conch meat mixed with a batter made from flour and egg, and then deep fried in oil.

Unfortunately conch is relatively scarce and even endangered in some waters. Neither is there a large conch farming industry, so fresh conch meat is not widely available. Since conch meat is often compared to sweet clam meat, however, it may be possible to substitute chopped clams for chopped conch if fresh conch is not within reach.

Fritters are a popular preparation for conch meat for a number of reasons. Since the conch is a type of snail, the meat comes hidden inside a large, thick shell that can be time-consuming or difficult to penetrate. This can mean, especially for the home cook, that it takes a lot of effort to retrieve a fairly small amount of meat. Conch fritters suspend pieces of conch meat in a batter, usually along with chopped vegetables, so a little bit of meat goes a long way. Chopping up the meat for conch fritters also solves another inherent problem, which is that conch meat is usually quite tough and benefits from being cooked in small pieces.

Most recipes for conch fritters begin with diced conch as well as diced onion, celery, and sweet bell pepper. Other seasonings such as garlic, cayenne pepper, or hot pepper sauce are also common ingredients used to flavor, but not overwhelm, the conch meat. Eggs and flour are added to the diced ingredients to form a thick, gooey batter full of chunks of conch and vegetables. Spoonfuls of the batter are dropped into very hot oil and allowed to fry on one side until brown, then flipped over and browned on the other side.

Once they are taken out of the frying oil, conch fritters are usually drained on towels to remove any excess oil before serving. The fritters are generally accompanied by some sort of dipping sauce, which can have several variations, but is usually a spicy mayonnaise-based sauce. 

Tartar sauce is also a plausible option for dipping the conch fritters.  In my opinion – they are best eaten without Tartar sauce and accompanied with a frozen Margarita.

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