1/2bulbfennelchopped into 1/2" pieces, reserve a few fronds for garnish.
1 sweet bell pepperchopped into 1/2" pieces
1/2 - 1jalapeno pepper* see note belowdiced (depends on how hot you like it)
3 largecloves garlicminced
15ounce can diced tomatoes
scant 1/2teaspoonground Allspice
5-6sprigsfresh thymetied with a kitchen string
1medium red or white potatonot russet, peeled and chopped into 1/2" pieces
1/2teaspoonNam Pla or fish sauce
hot sauce to taste
FOR THE CHOWDER:
Set a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the bacon and stir until the bacon renders its fat and crisps. Transfer the bacon to a dish lined with paper towels to soak up excess grease. Set aside.
Add the onion, celery, carrots, fennel, bell pepper, scallions, jalapeno and to the pot and stir to combine. Sauté the vegetables until tender and the onions are slightly translucent. Add the garlic and cook for one minute until fragrant.
Sprinkle the allspice over the vegetables, add the chopped parsley, bundle of fresh thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper, tomatoes, clam juice, water and the juice of one lime.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot with the lid slightly askew so some steam can escape. Simmer for 20 minutes.
PREPARE THE CONCH:
While the chowder simmers, prepare the conch. Use a meat mallet to pound the conch fillets to about 1/4" thick. Dice the conch into 1/2" pieces and set aside.
When the chowder has simmered, stir in the diced conch and the potatoes along with 1/4 cup of wine. Return the heat to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the chowder from the heat and stir in the juice from the second lime. Garnish with additional chopped parsley and the crisped bacon. Serve with oyster crackers or corn muffins.
For jalapenos, if you're sensitive to heat, taste a small bit of the pepper before adding it to the soup. If it's really spicy for you, only use half. If it's on the mild side, you can use the entire pepper... Removing seeds and white membrane will also reduce the heat.If you have piment fort, the authentic West Indies scotch bonnet pepper, omit the jalapeno and use less than a quarter teaspoon to flavor the soup. You can always add more, but you can't take it away -- so err on the side of less.