Monday, March 12, 2012

Conch Fritters with Key Lime Chile Mayonnaise





Key West style conch fritters!

     Conch fritters are a popular appetizer in Florida seafood restaurants and bars.  Conch fritters have a spicy flavor and a nice mellow conch flavor.
     Conch meat can be found fresh, frozen or canned.  Fresh conch must be poached in the shell.  The meat is not easy to pull out of the spiral conch shell and most cooks simply break the shell with a hammer.  Frozen conch is usually poached before freezing.  Both fresh and frozen conch meat needs to be tenderized with a meat mallet, before the meat is chopped.  Scungilli is an Italian mediterranean conch that is usually sold as a canned product.  Canned scungilli is tender from the canning process and it does not need to be tenderized.
     There are two types of conch fritters.  One type of conch fritter is made with wheat flour.  The problem with flour fritters is that the center of the fritter sometimes remains gummy after frying.  The older Florida style conch fritter combines corn flour, corn meal and wheat flour.  This type of conch fritter has the texture and taste of a hush puppy.
     The conch fritter batter has a high proportion of conch, vegetables and seasoning.  The small amount of batter simply holds the ingredients together.  The idea is not to use conch to flavor a batter, but for the batter to barely cover the conch!
     Key limes are a special breed of small limes that have a rich tart flavor.  Key limes are about 1/3 the size of a regular lime.  Either fresh key lime or bottled key lime juice can be used to make the key lime chile mayonnaise.
     These recipes make enough for one serving.  It is easier for most cooks to double or multiply a recipe rather than to divide fractions!

     Key Lime Chile Mayonnaise Recipe:
     Place 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise in a small bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of Korean red serrano chile pepper sauce.
     Add 2 teaspoons of key lime juice.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Place the key lime chile mayonnaise into a small ramekin and set it aside.

     Conch Fritters Recipe:
     Place 3 ounces of minced tenderized poached conch meat in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whisked egg.
     Add 1 tablespoon of milk.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced celery.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced red bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced green onion.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1 small pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of paprika.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of flour.
     Add 1 tablespoon of prepared corn flour.  (Masa Harina)
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of corn meal.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     The wet fritter mixture should be thick enough to hold a ball shape when scooped.  If the mixture is too loose, then add more prepared corn flour.  The mixture should not be dry looking!
     Heat 4" to 5" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360 degrees.
     Use a small sorbet scoop to scoop one ball shape of the conch fritter batter at a time and carefully drop the conch fritter batter ball into the hot frying oil.
     Each conch fritter will sink to the bottom of the fry oil.  Wait for the conch fritters to release themselves from the bottom of the pot, before trying to free them with a long spoon.  Usually the maillard reaction of the cooked proteins will free the stuck conch fritters on its own!
     When the conch fritters float in the oil, then they are not done cooking!  Allow the conch fritters to fry, till they turn a light brown color.
     Scoop the fried conch fritters out of the hot oil with a fryer net.
     Place the conch fritters on a dry towel to drain off any excess grease.
 
     Assembly:
     Place a bed of Italian parsley sprigs on an appetizer plate.
     Place the ramekin of key lime chile mayonnaise on the plate.
     Place the conch fritters on the plate around the ramekin.

     A tasty old Key West treat!  Conch fritters have a nice clam like flavor.  The minced aromatic vegetables and seasoning accents the flavor of the conch.  This is a nice appetizer before a seafood dinner!  Yum!  ...  Shawna

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