We’re back to (relative) civilization today, with a 2-day stay at the Green Turtle Club Marina. They’ve got a great deal going right now – all marina fees are applied towards club expenses – dinner, bar tab, etc. So, depending on how you look at it, either your marina costs are free if you have dinner at the club, or part of your dinner is free if you stay at the marina.
Right now, the place is empty, but come December 26, it fills up. We were perfectly content to have a couple of Tipsy Turtles at the bar, and a terrific dinner (lobster ravioli, grouper with red curry noodles) which started with some of the best conch fritters I’ve ever had.
Everywhere you go in the Bahamas, you’ll find various preparations of conch on the menus. The most typical preparations are the almost-obligatory conch fritters, as well as conch chowder. The chowder takes various forms, the most common being the red (tomato-based) version, but Green Turtle Club’s special Saturday night was a white version, which includes potatoes and has a dairy base. Other conch preparations include conch salad (sort of a conch ceviche), conch burgers, cracked conch (fried) and grilled conch.
Conch meat comes from the beautiful conch shell. They are everywhere in these islands:
If you don’t like seeing where your food comes from, you probably don’t want to know what the creature inside that pretty shell looks like. It’s got a single claw, which it uses for locomotion, and a not-very-handsome face. Even after it’s been cleaned, it doesn’t look very pretty.
I hate to be left out of the action, so whenever I’m in the Bahamas and have access to a galley, I make conch chowder. Sometimes, I’m lucky enough to be able to buy ground or minced conch. If I’m not, I personally have to pound the bejesus out of this dense mass of protein. I score the conch with a sharp knife, put it in a plastic bag, and go to town with whatever instrument of blunt force I have handy in order to break down the meat. Rick’s ball peen hammer is a little much, so I’ve been using my muddler – since I don’t have any fresh mint around to make mojitos, I’m putting it to alternative use. Then I take the semi-pulverized meat and mince it for use in the chowder.
The result is a classic Bahamian meal. Accompanied by fresh Bahamian bread and beer (lately, I’ve been buying Sands beer, because it’s Bahamian-owned, as opposed to Kalik, which is owned by Heineken), it just doesn’t get any better. My last batch lasted for dinner and two lunches.
Of course, sometimes conch conch conch gets boring. Maybe it’s not boring if you come down to the Bahamas once a year or so, but if you’re here for weeks or months at a time, as we will be, creativity is key. I put on my chef’s hat the other day, and make teriyaki conch in lettuce cups for an appetizer.
It was surprisingly delicious (Rick wanted to lick the bowl, a sure sign of my success). While fully conch-like in texture and flavor, it was nevertheless a different take on a classic.
I’m sure I’ll be called on to take different approaches to conch in the coming weeks. All ideas or suggestions are welcome. Not that the classic chowder is a bad thing….