There are as many conch (pronounced "conk") chowder recipes as there are cooks and this recipe is yet another offering. This chowder is simple to prepare, but the very tough conch meat must be tenderized and ground before it can be used in the preparation of this chowder. Traditionally, each conch steak would be pounded with a mallet for ten minutes or until tender, then cut into tiny pieces, the size of chopped clams. I say, ask your fishmonger to tenderize and grind your conch steaks and save yourself from this tedious task.
Lending a Cuban flair in this recipe are yuca and boniata. Yuca (also known as cassava) is a starchy potato-like vegetable that is used in many Cuban dishes. Boniata (also known as Cuban sweet potato) is less sweet than the sweet potatoes known in the states, but is used much in the way any potato could be used.
Cuban food is generally not terribly spicy, and there is only one half Scotch bonnet pepper used in this recipe. In other countries in the Caribbean Conch Chowder recipes include one or more of the scorching hot peppers and if you like the heat feel free to follow that course.
Cuban Style Conch Chowder
6 cleaned conch steaks, tenderized and ground
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 large green pepper, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes
1/2 can tomato paste
1/2 Scotch bonnet pepper, seeded and finely minced
4 cups fish stock or clam juice
1 medium yuca, peeled and diced
2 medium boniatas, peeled and diced
1/2 cup dry sherry (not cooking sherry)
Place a medium sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the ground conch, onion, carrot and green pepper. Sauté the mixture until the green peppers are limp and the onions are translucent. Then add the thyme, oregano, salt and pepper to taste , the tomatoes, tomato paste, and 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper. Combine the ingredients well. Then add the fish stock or clam juice, and the yuca and boniata. Mix the ingredients into the mixture well and bring the chowder to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the saucepan and simmer the chowder for about an hour, or until the yuca and boniata is tender.
To serve, put a tablespoon of dry sherry in the bottom of each bowl and ladle the chowder on top. Pass the remaining sherry at the table.