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If you’ve ever visited Florida, the Bahamas or other Caribbean climes, you’ve probably had conch fritters. They are a standard on most seafood restaurant menus and frankly any visitor should expect to sample them at least once or twice during their stay. Visit the South Florida Fair in January and there’s always a vendor or two hawking their version of “The Best Conch Fritters on the Planet!”
And there are as many recipe variations for conch fritters as there are opinions on what they should and should not include. The market where I purchased my conch, sells their own conch fritters next to the register. Theirs are hefty cornbread fritters with chunks of conch, they’re good, but they don’t have any spice. Subsequently, it’s up to me to create a “clear your sinuses” cocktail sauce to jazz them up.
This recipe comes courtesy of my friend, chef and angler, Joe Cascio and his lovely wife, Erica. I love their version because it starts with a pound of fresh conch, uses lots of veggies (that you can taste in the fritter) and enrobes them in a light, crispy beer batter. Now you know why they’re my friends!
When Joe makes his fritters for the restaurant, he’s keen to take into account those who are shy and reticent about too much spice. But we’re not a heat averse household….
We don’t want tonsil-scorching, but we like a nice subtle tingle, don’t you? So, I’ve included half of a scotch bonnet pepper (seeds and all) in his recipe. You could go with more if hell-fire is your thing, or eliminate them altogether if it isn’t.
As a rule, I don’t do a lot of deep frying, but there are exceptions… like those absolutely addictive accras, the fried chicken and waffles, chile rellenos, chalupas, french fries and pork cutlets. So when I do get out the fryer, the oil is very important! LouAna has “Over 120 years of cooking oil know-how” and it’s a brand that delivers consistency and quality to my recipes.
Lou Ana was born in Opelousas, Louisiana in 1820, a place where the food is an elemental expression of love, flavor and family. With over 14 different types of cooking oil, LouAna has the perfect oil for all of your cooking needs whether its sautéing, deep frying or baking, LouAna helps every type of cook put the best dish on the table each and every time.
For this type of frying, peanut oil works best. Peanut oil has a high smoke point, creating a surface seal that locks the food’s natural moisture allowing the steam to cook the food from the inside out. The result is a delicate, golden crispy outside and a tender, tasty inside. With LouAna Peanut oil, you can be sure that your favorite dishes will be fried to a crispy, crunchy perfection! That’s because LouAna is the #1 Brand of Peanut Oil in the country and since I think these are the #1 Island-Style Conch Fritters, I want the best!
A few tips on frying:
- Before you begin, spread a few layers of newspaper over the work surface to catch any drips and splatters.
- Use a small (.05 to 1 oz) cookie scoop to portion out your batter. It gives you evenly sized fritters and cooks more consistently.
- Don’t crowd your fryer — instead work in small batches. This allows the oil to maintain an even temperature and will give you consistently crispy fritters.
- Use a spider to scoop the fritters and rest it on the side of your fryer to drain for 15-20 seconds before transferring them to a paper lined platter.
- Use a large paper grocery bag to drain the fritters on. They’re thicker and soak up more of the excess than a wad of paper towels. Just tear off one side of a paper grocery bag and rest it on a baking sheet. Voila!
When the first batch is ready, test a few for flavor. Make sure there’s enough salt and spice — so that they’re seasoned the way you like. Trust your palate and make the necessary adjustments at this time.
These fritters are exceptionally tender and light with a snappy zing from the scotch bonnet and while they’re delicious on their own, they benefit even more from a tangy key lime aioli.
The aioli is simply a good quality mayonnaise, key lime zest and juice, a little salt and hot sauce to taste. Mix it up and prepare to swoon.
These conch fritters will win you friends, trust me. No one can resist the allure or aroma of hot from the fryer fritters with a tangy dipping sauce! You’re in for a treat!
Island-Style Conch Fritters
You can't get fresh conch in the states, but find a reputable fishmonger and they can usually get some fresh-frozen conch. It works equally as well in these delicious fritters!
- 1 pound fresh conch
- 1/2 scotch bonnet (habanero), or jalapeno
- 1/2 cup Spanish onion minced
- 1 stalk celery
- 1/2 green bell pepper minced
- 1/2 red bell pepper minced
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
- 1/2 cup club soda
- 1/2 cup beer (make it a good one)
LouAna Peanut Oil for frying ~ 6 cups
For the Key Lime Aioli
- 1/2 teaspoon lime zest
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons key lime juice or fresh lime juice from a Persian lime
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1-2 teaspoons favorite hot sauce (optional) I used Crystal
- fresh cilantro chopped
- 1 lime cut into wedges
- favorite hot sauce as desired
Make The Batter
Place the conch on a cutting board or other tough work surface. Use the rough side of a meat mallet to pound the conch to about 1/4" thickness. Use a very sharp chef's knife to mince the conch meat <1/4" dice. Transfer the conch to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse quickly 10-15 times to chop the conch a little finer. Transfer the chopped conch to a large mixing bowl.
Add the scotch bonnet pepper to the bowl of the food processor. (Be careful - the scotch bonnet is an extremely hot pepper. You don't want to handle it with bare hands once it's been cut -- and don't touch your hand to your eyes or face if you do). Divide the celery in half and add one half to the scotch bonnet pepper. Pulse several times until the celery and scotch bonnet are finely minced. Transfer the pepper and celery to the conch.
Mince the remaining half of the celery and add it to the conch along with the onions, bell peppers, eggs and thyme. Stir to combine. Set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, curry powder, salt and pepper.
Add the flour mixture to the conch and stir until well combined. Add the beer and club soda and stir until combined and mixture is thick and unctuous.
Make The Aioli
Combine the mayonnaise, lime zest, lime juice, salt and hot sauce in a small bowl. Whisk to combine and refrigerate.
Fry The Fritters
Heat the LouAna Peanut oil in an electric deep fryer to 350°. Use a .05 ounce scoop to portion the batter (I used a cookie scoop). Gently drop the batter into the hot oil from just above the surface so it doesn't splash. Don't crowd the fryer, otherwise it will affect the oil's temperature. I fried about 7 fritters at a time. When you add the fritters to the oil, they will sink to the bottom of the skillet, then float. Cook the fritters for 4-5 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden brown. Use a slotted spoon or spider to transfer the fritters to a paper lined baking sheet.
Continue working in batches to fry the remaining fritters.
Arrange the fritters in a basket or on a platter with the aioli and extra hot sauce on the side. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and tuck lime wedges in and around the fritters. Enjoy with a cold beer!
To make the swirls on the key lime aioli (not necessary, but fun for show), add a few drops of hot sauce to the aioli and drag a toothpick through it.
Don’t Forget To “Pin It” For Later!
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