These savory, crisp fritters, laced with the delicate flavor of conch, are favorite snacks throughout the islands. Since fresh or thawed frozen raw conch is very tough, it must be tenderized in a pressure cooker or, if a recipe requires it raw, like this one, it needs to be pounded to break it down. The conch can then be finely minced or ground in the food processor or a meat grinder.
1 pound conch, cleaned, tenderized and passed through a food processor or meat grinder
3/4 cup finely diced celery
1/2 cup minced scallions
1/4 cup finely minced carrot
1 finely minced garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup cool water or as needed
Few dashes hot sauce
Salt and freshly ground pepper
vegetable or peanut oil
Combine the ingredients through the thyme in a large bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, and egg. Combine. Stir in the water, a little at a time. The mixture should have a very thick batterlike consistency. Season with the hot sauce and salt and pepper.
Heat 2 to 3 inches of oil in a deep fryer to 375 degrees. Drop the batter in rounded tablespoons into the oil. Cook in batches until golden brown all over. One word of caution: The center cooks last, so sample one of each batch to make sure it's done. That's the cook's reward. Drain each batch and serve with cocktail or tartar sauce or the following lime dipping sauce.
Lime Dipping Sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1 finely minced scallion
1/4 cup finely minced green pepper
1/4 cup well-drained crushed pineapple (patted dry between paper towels)
1 tablespoon mustard or to taste
2 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice Dash or 2 of hot pepper sauce Salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine the ingredients and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.
Serves 6 to 8.
Editor's note: Michele Evans, a resident of St Thomas, is the author of thirteen cookbooks. She also co-authored "La Cucina Siciliana di Gangivecchio", which won the James Beard Foundation award for the best Italian cookbook for 1997. Her travel guide, "Caribbean Connoisseur…An Insider's Guide to the Islands' Best Hotels Resorts and Inns", published by St. Martin's Press is in its third edition.