Conch, a durable shellfish, requires tenderizing prior to cooking for a tender, easy bite. You have a short window of time when cooking conch; both undercooked and overcooked conch have a consistency akin to rubber. Conch does best with a high-and-dry cooking method, or when it's cooked over high heat with a little oil for a short period of time. Shallow frying and sauteeing conch work best for a quick seafood fix, but you can also add conch to seafood stews, such as bouillabaisse or cioppino, in the last 30 minutes of cooking for a slow-cooked approach.
Tap the conch with glancing blows from a meat mallet until it's about 1/4 inch thick, using the textured side of the mallet head. Pat the conch dry with a paper towel and season it to taste on both sides with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Slice the conch into 1/3- to 1/4-inch-thick slices. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan on the stove over medium-high heat. To add spice and herbal notes, add 1 or 2 sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary to the oil as it heats.
Add the conch to the pan and saute until golden brown, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes each side. Transfer the conch to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
Finish the conch with freshly chopped herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Tap the conch with a meat mallet, using the knobby side of the mallet head, until it's about 1/4 inch thick. Slice the conch into 1/2- to 1-inch pieces.
Heat about 1 inch of canola oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Break and egg or two in a bowl and whisk with a touch of cream or milk, just enough to lighten the color.
Season the conch to taste and dredge it in flour. Dip the conch in the egg wash and coat it on both sides with bread crumbs. Lay the conch in the oil using tongs.
Fry the conch until golden brown, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side. Drain the conch on a plate lined with paper towels.
Blot the oil from the conch with a paper towel and finish with freshly chopped herbs.
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- You can marinate conch in a marinade comprising 1 part acid to 3 parts oil for 30 minutes before tenderizing it with a meat mallet to incorporate flavor. Marinades, however, aren't an alternative to mechanical tenderization with conch.
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.