Last Friday, September 23, might have been the autumnal equinox, but there is little sign of changing seasons in San Antonio, Texas. Honestly, it still feels like July as temperatures continue to swing well into the high 90’s. So, while the calendar indicates that fall has arrived, we struggle to prepare relevant, seasonal meals.
Because we never follow the rules, we made a sublimely summer meal. Conch salad. We wanted to make octopus salad, but our seafood monger, Groomer’s, was fresh out, so conch took second place. Though, there is absolutely nothing wrong with second place in this case.
David claims to be part Bahamian. He has spent countless weekends fishing in the crystal blue waters, lived on an island in the Bahamas for a while and that’s where we got married.
While all that is good and well, the true sign of a Bahamian is whether you can crack a conch. That is, dive into the waters, find a conch and then clean it. Well, David has astounded many a “true Bahamian” with his conch skills. And he makes a mean conch salad to boot.
Eating conch salad in the Bahamas is like eating barbecue in Texas. Everyone makes it and everyone makes it a little different. So, as with BBQ, you drive around and sample conch salad until you find the one that speaks to you and makes the heaven part and the angels sing. It’s really that kind of dish. Trust me.
Similar in concept to ceviche, conch salad features raw conch that is cooked in lime juice. But unlike ceviche, which tastes best when it’s eaten almost immediately after being made, conch salad is best when it marinates and cooks in the lime juice for a few hours. This helps to break down the conch flesh and make it softer to the chew. In fact, conch salad is even better the next day.
Despite the fact that autumn is here, we’re eating like it’s summer. And there is nothing wrong with that.
- 1 lb. conch meat cleaned and chopped into bite-sized (1/2" to 1/4") pieces
- 2 limes juiced and 4 key limes, juiced (approximately 1/3-1/2 cup)
- 2 stalks of celery diced
- 1/4 cup red onion diced
- 1/4 cup red or green pepper diced
- 1 red Thai chile finely diced
- 2 tablespoons Italian parsley finely diced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- A few good grinds of fresh black pepper
- 2 small tomatoes diced
- A few shakes of hot sauce depending on how hot you like it, optional
If you can, buy already cleaned conch meat and then cut it into bite-sized pieces.
Place the diced conch in a large bowl and squeeze fresh lime juice over the conch to marinate and add 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt. Stir well so the salt dissolves, cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate for a few hours.
After the conch marinates, chop the celery, red onion, bell pepper and finely dice the Thai chile and parsley and add to the conch-lime marinade. Chop the tomatoes and add them, too. stirring well to combine. Generously add freshly ground black pepper and taste for seasoning adding more lime juice, salt and, if you can handle it, a few shakes of a good hot sauce (Tabasco or habanero hot sauce are great for this).
Allow the vegetables to marinate with the conch in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to an hour. Traditionally, conch salad is served in a styrofoam or paper cup along with a spoon, but I serve it on a bed of lettuce or a Butter lettuce leaf.