Conch is a large mollusk that is used in the preparation of many dishes throughout the Caribbean. Conch is served stewed, "cracked" and deep-fried, transformed into fritters and also enjoyed in this spicy salad. In this recipe the conch is not cooked in the traditional sense; rather it is covered with lime juice for 24 hours and the lime juice "cooks" the conch flesh, in the manner of Ceviche.
In its natural state, conch is tough and leather-like, so tenderizing the flesh is a necessary, albeit time consuming and somewhat messy process. This recipe gives directions for pounding the conch with a mallet; you'll need to spend about 10 or 15 minutes on each conch piece to make it tender. Or, you might ask your fishmonger if he could tenderize the flesh for you and save yourself the work
Traditionally, conch salad is made with fiery little bird peppers. They are not always easy to find outside of the Caribbean, but if you can get them - or if you would like to use another type of hot pepper- go ahead and substitute them for the hot sauce. If you use hot sauce, choose one that has a lot of heat and also a good, peppery flavor.
Conch Salad Recipe
2 pounds conch, cut into large pieces
1 quart fresh lime juice
5 ounces hot pepper sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
4 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1/2 cup diced bell pepper
1/2 cup diced red tomato
1/2 cup diced celery
3 teaspoons salt
Lime wedges for garnish
Pound each piece of conch with a mallet for about 10 or 15 minutes in order to flatten and tenderize the flesh. Place the conch pieces in a large, non-reactive bowl. Pour in the lime juice to cover the conch. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the conch for at least 24 hours.
Drain the conch well and discard the lime juice.
Cut the conch into 1/2 inch (bite-size) pieces. Place the conch pieces in a large bowl and add the hot sauce, garlic, cilantro, bell pepper, tomato, celery and salt. Stir the ingredients to mix them well.
Cover the bowl and allow the flavors of the ingredients to marry for 2 to 4 hours before serving.
Conch salad can be served simply, in a lettuce leaf bowl with a wedge of lime on the side. For a fancier, restaurant-style presentation, pile the conch salad into an attractive martini glass and perch a wedge of lime on the rim.