Fabulous Friday Night Dinner: Conch Chowder

October 19, 2012

Conch Chowder with Iron Horse Chardonnay

If you’ve ever travelled to the Caribbean, hopefully you’ve taken the chance and tried one of their more unique meats – conch. I’ve had it in fritters in Key West, I’ve had it as a marinated piece of meat in St. Thomas, but until now, I had never tried conch chowder.

Now, I have no idea if canned conch is regularly stocked in stores, but quite a while back I noticed a local market had it stocked, so I picked up a can (I now know that Amazon carries it). And then it sat in my basement stores. For a while. So long, that just this past week I realized I had a few months left to eat it, otherwise, it would be headed for the trash. So peruse my cookbooks I did, and conch chowder I decided upon.

This recipe was crazy easy. I expected more work to be involved, but really it was just chopping a bit of mirepoix and a hot pepper, and combining a couple of handfuls of ingredients in a pot. The result was a creamy soup, subtly seafood-flavored, not quite as forward as a clam chowder. The butter and cream begged for a French baguette, and the Chardonnay I just happened to have open, Iron Horse’s 2009 Corral Vineyard Chardonnay, paired so well with this it was like I had planned it. The medium-bodied chardonnay had hints of apple and pear with a slight bit of mineral-ly flavor that would go well with any dish laden with cream and butter, but is a must try with this chowder.

Conch Chowder
Adapted from Morgan Freeman and Friends: Caribbean Cooking for a Cause
Makes 4 servings

3 tablespoons butter
1 can conch meat, drained and well-rinsed, chopped coarsely
1 carrot, finely diced
1 rib celery, finely diced
1/2 sweet white onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 habanero chili, seeded and finely diced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups fish stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 bay leaves
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons white wine

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the conch, carrot, celery, onion, garlic, and chile pepper and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and translucent. Sprinkle the mixture with flour, stir until the vegetables have just absorbed the flour.

Add the stock, stir, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cream, allspice, nutmeg, bay leaves, salt, and pepper, and cook for a few more minutes to let the flavors blend. Finally, add the wine and adjust seasoning if needed. Stir to combine and let heat through, then serve.

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