You have probably heard of eating fried conch, which is a common dish in Florida and the Caribbean, but you may not be aware that you can eat their close relatives, the lightning whelk. Whelks are not commonly cooked in the United States because they are tougher than conch and they exude a very strong odor of fish when they are cooked. If they are boiled until they are tender or fried in batter or breadcrumbs, however, the whelk become just as tender and juicy as conch.
Boiled Lightning Whelk
Place the live whelks in a bowl and cover them with cool water. Place the bowl, uncovered, in the refrigerator overnight. Change the water every few hours. The soaking process purges the whelks of any grit or sand.
Fill a stockpot 3/4 full with water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
Place the lightning whelk into the boiling water and cook the whelks for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the whelks are easily pierced with a fork when you remove the meat from the shell.
Drain the water into a colander. Put on an oven mitt and grasp the whelk shells one at a time and pull the meat out with a seafood fork.
Cut the foot off the whelk meat and trim off any hard parts. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with a lemon wedge.
Fried Lightning Whelk
Place the live whelks in a bowl and cover them with cool water. Place the bowl, uncovered, in the refrigerator overnight. Change the water every few hours.
Fill a stockpot 3/4 full with water and heat on high on the stove top. When the water begins to boil, add the whelks. Boil the whelks for eight minutes, then drain the whelks and water into a colander. Wearing an oven mitt, grasp each whelk shell and pull the meat out with a seafood fork. Cut the foot off the meat and trim away any hard parts on the foot. Reserve the whelk feet.
Crack the eggs into a bowl and scramble them with a wire whisk. Place the flour in another bowl. Dredge each whelk foot in the egg, then in the flour. Repeat the process for a thicker coating.
Place the battered whelks in the oil and fry them for five minutes, or until the outside coating has turned golden brown.
Remove the whelk from the skillet with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate covered in paper towels to drain some of the oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve the lightning whelk with hot sauce or mango salsa.
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Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.