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How to Grill Bahamian Style Conch on the BBQ

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I lived aboard my sailboat for several years and spent some of those years sailing in the Caribbean and along the coast Central America.

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Conch Is Delicious!

My spouse and I spent part of the time we lived aboard our small sailboat cruising the islands of the Bahamas. There we discovered conch fritters or "cracked conch" as some call it. It's one of my favorite dishes, but since fried foods aren't always that healthy, we sometimes cooked it on the grill to be healthier.

The locals on Abaco Island and other Bahamian islands also serve conch raw as "conch salad", which is made similar to ceviche, with sour orange or lime juice and other spices serving to tenderize and "cook" the meat. Conchs are a type of saltwater mollusk, and they can grow quite large in the warm tropical waters of the Bahamas.

Heavily subject to over-fishing, the species is now more carefully managed and is even being successfully raised on inland fish farms in places such as the Turks and Caicos Islands. Conch meat is rich in protein and has a delicate taste somewhat resembling a cross between fish and chicken. On many occasions when we were sailing in the Exumas, south of Nassau, we would find an anchorage where many large, legal-sized conch were scattered across the bottom of the lagoon.

On those occasions we would put on our snorkeling gear, round up a few, then fire up the small propane grill on the transom of our small sailboat and grill up a few "conch steaks". Cleaning conch is not a fun job but luckily conch meat is sold in many large supermarkets and seafood markets, frozen in bags. Look for conch meat in large Asian markets, such as 99 Ranch Market, where it's often found in the frozen seafood section. Make sure that the conch meat that you're buying carries the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) sustainable seafood labeling; that way you know that you're getting a product that does not contribute to over-fishing.

Always look for the MSC label when purchasing seafood.

Always look for the MSC label when purchasing seafood.

Ingredients

Yield: 4 servings

  • 2 pounds conch meat, fresh or frozen and thawed
  • Dash habanero pepper sauce (omit if you don't like spicy foods)
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Butter or olive oil, for brushing the grill

Instructions

This is just one way to grill conch steaks on your barbecue, but it's a very tasty one.

  1. Use a tenderizing mallet to pound the conch steaks until they are tender, but try not to overdo it. You don't want to make holes in the meat or get them too thin, but you do want to flatten them somewhat.
  2. Heat up your BBQ grill to a medium to high flame. Using a marinade brush, brush some butter or olive oil on the grill and also on the conch meat. When the grill is good and hot, place the prepared conch steaks on the grill just long enough for it to leave grill marks on the meat. Remove the conch steaks from the grill and let them cool.
  3. In a large bowl, add the habanero pepper sauce (called Scotch Bonnet in the islands), lime juice, minced garlic, 3 to 4 tablespoons melted butter, and black pepper and salt to taste. Stir the ingredients well and set aside.
  4. Make some large foil pouches and place the lightly grilled conch steaks in them. Cover with the marinade mixture you made in the step above. Fold the edges of the foil packets upwards, so that when the ingredients inside begin to simmer the juices won't leak.
  5. Cook the conch steaks on the BBQ on low flame until they are done. You may want to make a test packet with a smaller piece that you can unfold easier to check how fast they're cooking. (You don't need to cook your conch steaks for long, only a few minutes. Overcooking conch meat can result in a tough, rubbery texture and you definitely don't want that. You can let the conch remain in the foil pouches after cooking to absorb the flavor of the marinade.)

Serve with lime wedges and enjoy your island-style meal! Some "island style sides" that go well with grilled conch include Bahamian peas and rice, fried plantains. A nice rum punch to follow might also be a good idea.

© 2021 Nolen Hart

Comments

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 08, 2021:

I have never tasted conch. Thanks for the tutorial on how to prepare it.

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