Conch: If you live in Florida or Louisiana, you may be able to find fresh or at least thawed frozen conch at your local fishmonger. Elsewhere in the country, you'll have to settle for frozen conch. Fortunately, conch freezes well. Thaw conch in the refrigerator.
Conch (pronounced "konk") is the whitest, sweetest, most delicately flavored of all shellfish. Although it's not well known in North America, it's virtually the national dish of the Bahamas. Stroll along the Potters Cay market beneath the bridge to Paradise Island or along the Arawak Cay recreation area (a popular local hangout) and you'll find dozens of stalls specializing in the preparation of this giant sea snail. After you've had fiery conch salad (the most popular way to eat conch) and "cracked" (fried) conch, you'll be ready for the most delicious preparation of all: grilled conch.
The basic procedure is to grill the conch wrapped in foil with onions, garlic, chiles, and butter. To enhance the smoke flavor, Nassau chef Basil Dean chars the conch directly over the coals before wrapping. By the way, any white fish fillets can be prepared in this fashion (omitting the tenderizing), with delectable results.
1 1/2 pounds conch, , trimmed, cleaned (4 large or 8 small steaks)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2/3 cup onions, very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 hot chilies, such as bird pepper, minced (for a milder dish, seed the chiles)
2 tablespoons lime juice, fresh
4 tablespoons butter, salted (1/2 stick)
4 limes wedges, for serving
1. Preheat the grill to high.
2. Tenderize the conch steaks by pounding them with a meat mallet or rolling pin to a 1/4-inch thickness. Season on both sides with salt and pepper.
3. When ready to cook, oil the grill grate. Arrange the steaks on the hot grate and quickly grill, turning with tongs, about 1 minute per side. (The idea here is to leave grill marks on the conch and impart a charcoaled flavor.) Transfer the steaks to a platter to cool.
4. Cut four 12 3 8-inch sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place 1 large or 2 small conch steaks in the center of each piece.
5. Combine the onion, garlic, and chile in a bowl, then place 3 to 4 tablespoons of this mixture on top of each steak. Drizzle each steak with 1/2 tablespoon lime juice and top with 1 tablespoon butter. Bring the sides of the foil up over the top and pleat to make an airtight package. Wrap the remaining conch steaks the same way.
6. When ready to cook, arrange the foil packages on the hot grate and grill until the conch is cooked through and tender, about 5 minutes (a metal skewer inserted into the conch through the foil will be very hot when withdrawn).
7. Open the foil packages and slide the conch steaks, with their topping, onto plates. (Or let everyone unwrap their own bundle. But warn them to avoid the escaping steam.) Serve the conch steaks with wedges of lime for squeezing.