Bahamian Grilled Conch

Bahamas

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Direct Grilling Serves

    4

Appears in

Conch (pronounced konk) is the whitest, sweetest, most delicately flavored of all shellfish. Although it’s not well known in North America, it’s virtually the national dish of the Bahamas. Stroll along the Potter’s Cay market beneath the bridge to Paradise Island or along the Arawak Cay recreation area (a popular local hangout) and you’ll find dozens of stalls specializing in the preparation of this giant sea snail. After you’ve had fiery conch salad (the most popular way to eat conch) and “cracked” (fried) conch, you’ll be ready for the most delicious preparation of all: grilled conch.

The basic procedure is to grill the conch wrapped in aluminum foil with onions, garlic, chiles, and butter. To enhance the smoke flavor, Nassau chef Basil Dean chars the conch directly over the coals before wrapping it. Any white fish fillets can be prepared in this fashion (omitting the tenderizing), with delectable results.

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Ingredients

  • pounds trimmed, cleaned conch (4 large or 8 small steaks; see Conch)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • cup very finely chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ to 1 bird pepper, or other hot chile, seeded and minced (for a hotter dish, leave the seeds in)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter
  • 4 lime wedges, for serving

Special Equipment

Heavy-duty aluminum foil

Method

  1. Tenderize the conch steaks by pounding them to a ¼-inch thickness using a meat mallet or a rolling pin. Season the conch steaks on both sides with salt and pepper.

  2. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.

  3. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the conch steaks on the hot grate and grill them quickly, turning with tongs, about 1 minute per side. (The idea is to leave grill marks on the conch and impart a charcoaled flavor.) Transfer the steaks to a platter to cool. Leave the fire burning.

  4. Cut four 12 by 8–inch pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place 1 large or 2 small conch steaks in the center of each piece of foil.

  5. Place the onion, garlic, and bird pepper in a bowl, stir to mix, and spoon 3 to 4 tablespoons of the onion mixture on top of each conch steak. Drizzle teaspoons of lime juice over each conch steak and top with 1 tablespoon of butter. Pull the sides of the aluminum foil up over the top of a conch steak and pleat them together to make an airtight package. Wrap the remaining conch steaks the same way.

  6. When ready to cook, arrange the foil packages on the hot grate and grill until the conch is cooked through and tender, about 5 minutes (when done, a metal skewer inserted into the conch through the foil will be very hot when withdrawn).

  7. Open the foil packages and slide the conch steaks, with their toppings, onto plates. (Or let each person unwrap his or her own bundle. But warn everyone to avoid the escaping steam.) Serve the conch steaks with wedges of lime for squeezing.