Key West Conch Chowder

Photo courtesy of Aspen Photography
8 ounces conch meat, frozen, thawed (or clams if conch is not available)
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 quart clam juice
1 thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup bacon, 1/4 inch dice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup onion, 1/4 inch dice
1/2 cup celery, 1/4 inch dice
1 cup carrots, 1/4 inch dice
1 cup green bell pepper, 1/4 inch dice
1 1/2 cups russet potatoes, 1/4 inch dice
1/3 cup tomato, peeled, seeded, 1/4 inch dice
salt and black pepper to taste
Tabasco to taste

  1. Thoroughly wash the conch in lemon juice.
  2. Grind the conch meat through a medium die in a grinder.
  3. Combine the conch meat with the clam juice, thyme, and bay leaf; bring to a simmer and cook over low heat for 30 minutes.
  4. Render the bacon in a saute pan; add the garlic, onion, celery, carrots, and green pepper; cook 5 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
  5. Combine the vegetables, conch, potatoes and tomato. Return to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender.
  6. season with salt, pepper, and a dash of Tabasco.

Chef: distinct acidic flavor; possibly from the Tabasco-- could get spice form dried chili flakes instead of Tabasco (too much vinegar). Consistent knife cuts on vegetables, good flavor, fresh herbs on top is a nice garnish.

Personal/team: I would have liked a richer flavor and less acidity. I think less vinegar and a longer cook time allowing the potatoes to breakdown and thicken the soup would have improved it.

Lesson Learned: This is distinctly different from the New England clam chowder. The soup doesn't have any cream, but if you wanted to make it creamy, coconut milk would be a good substitute that still maintains the regional flavors.