I was on a trip recently to the Bahamas, and had a conversation with a local about Conch Chowder. I am familiar with conch, but never really tried preparing a dish using it. He gave me a few pointers as to how to get the conch tender, and what a typical Bahamian would use as the starter. The rest was up to me…I must admit…this was the best Conch Chowder I ever tasted.
I suppose the question is…Where on earth can one buy Bahamian conch? If you are local to Charlotte, The Carolina Meat & Fish Company usually has some in stock, or they can ship to you. Click here for the direct link. I think conch just may be the biggest shipped item out of the market. Imagine that? It is frozen, so allow yourself some time to thaw.
Start browning the bacon in a large stock pot. As the bacon is browning, prep the rest of the ingredients. Rinse the conch. Lay on a flat surface and pound with a tenderizer. Slice and add to a chopper and mince. You will probably have to do this in batches. Place in bowl and reserve chopped conch in fridge.
Mince the celery, carrot, onion, bell peppers, garlic and jalapeño. I just stuck everything (in batches) in this handy Chop N Prep Chef from Tupperware. Click here to purchase. So super easy to use. You just give the handle a pull a few times, and you have the perfect minced vegetables. I like the vegetables very tiny in this recipe.
Once the bacon has browned, remove from pot and drain on paper towels, leaving the bacon grease in the pot. Add the minced vegetables to the pot and allow to cook for a few minutes. Add the diced potatoes. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Add the flour and coat the vegetables. Allow the raw flour to cook a few minutes.
Add in the wine. Scrape any browned bits from the bottom. Allow the wine to cook of a few minutes. Add the seafood stock, clam juice, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaves, crushed red pepper and bacon back to the pot. Stir. Season with a touch more kosher salt and pepper. Add in the lime juice and the lime itself. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a slow simmer. Simmer for at least an hour to an hour and a half. Conch and potatoes should be nice and tender. Stir often. Taste also for salt. The potatoes will need it as they are cooking. Feel free to adjust the heat level up or down. The diced jalapeño with its seeds and the crushed red pepper was the perfect amount of heat for me. Definitely spicy…in a good way!
Remove and discard bay leaves. Serve up in big, huge bowls garnished with fresh parsley. I fancied mine up with a few homemade Conch Fritters! ENJOY! This chowder is even better the next day!