While strolling the beach the other day I found two nearly perfect conch shells. There are loads of broken ones, but finding one intact has so far eluded me, and I've been looking for decades, so it was a good day.
It was also my first encounter with the sea snail that lives inside as these two came fully loaded. As I was contemplating how one gets them out of the shell, recipes were coming to mind. It was a toss up between conch fritters and baked stuffed conch prepared in the style of stuffed quahogs. The latter won out as I wanted to bake it inside the shell. Kind of the ultimate in sustainable eating, no? Plus, it would make for an awfully sweet presentation, and the perfect opportunity to show off my prize.
Broken conch shell that caught the refection of the sun.
Google came through with instructions on how to dislodge them. There were a few options. The first involved piercing a hole in the shell to release the suction of the snail, which was totally out of the question since I intend on displaying mine for time immemorial, and option two was to boil them for about 10 minutes. I opted for the latter. After boiling, remove them from the water and use kitchen tongs to grab on to the hard end (sometimes called the toenail) and pull until it releases from the shell. Cut this end off and remove the digestive gland at the top. Wash the meat well to remove any sand. The meat can be roughly chopped in a food processor on pulse, or with a sharp knife.
Baked Stuffed Cape Cod Conch
Serves 4 as an appetizer
Meat from two large conch
6 slices of good french bread (cut into small cubes)
1/3 green pepper (diced)
1/3 red pepper (diced)
1/4 of a small sweet white onion (diced)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 oz clam juice
Salt and pepper
Add two teaspoons of olive oil to a skillet. Saute the garlic, onion and peppers until they just start to brown. Remove from heat, add chopped conch, Worcestershire sauce, bread, calm juice, pepper flakes and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Mix well. Stuff into a clean conch shell, or use a casserole pan. Place a few pats of butter on top, cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and brown the tops under the broiler. Serve with fresh lemon wedges and your favorite hot sauce.