Conch fritters are a popular appetizer in Florida seafood restaurants and local bars. Conch fritters have a nice mellow conch flavor combined with spicy peppers. The conch fritter batter has a high proportion of conch, vegetables and seasoning. The small amount of stiff batter simply holds the ingredients together. The fritter batter is thick enough to be gathered with a small scoop, then dropped directly into hot frying oil. The batter can also be made thick enough to be rolled into small ball shapes by hand for a more uniform shape.
There are two types of conch fritters. One type of conch fritter is made with wheat flour. The problem with wheat flour fritters is that the center of the fritter sometimes remains gummy after frying. The older Florida Cracker style conch fritter recipe combines corn flour, corn meal and wheat flour. This type of conch fritter has the texture of a fried Hush Puppy.
Conch meat can be found fresh, frozen or canned. Fresh conch can no longer be harvested locally in Florida due to sustainability issues, but fortunately, conch are still abundant in some fisheries around the globe. Frozen conch is usually poached before freezing, but some fisheries market frozen raw conch meat. Both fresh and frozen conch meat needs to be tenderized with a meat mallet, before the meat is chopped for making fritters.
If frozen conch meat is not available, then there is a nice alternative. Scungilli is an Italian Mediterranean conch species that is usually sold as a canned product. Canned scungilli is tender from the canning process and it does not need to be tenderized with a mallet. Canned scungilli is available at Italian delicatessens.
Key Limes are a special breed of small limes that have a rich tart flavor. Key Limes are about 1/3 the size of a regular lime. Either fresh Key Lime Juice or bottled Key Lime Juice can be used to make the Key Lime Chile Mayonnaise. Bottles of Key Lime Juice can be found at most grocery stores.
Key Lime Chile Mayonnaise:
This recipe yields about 1 cup.
Step 1: Place 3/4 cup of mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.
Add 2 tablespoons of Korean style Coarse Red Serrano Chile Pepper Paste. (sambal)
Add 1 tablespoon of Key Lime Juice.
Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
Stir the ingredients together.
Step 2: Place the Key Lime Chile Mayonnaise in a container.
Chill for 1 hour, so the flavors meld.
This recipe yields 2 petite appetizer portions. (12 small fritters)
Step 1: *If fresh frozen or poached frozen conch meat is used, then the meat must be tenderized with a mallet to the point of being pulverized. If Canned Scungilli is used, then the meat does not need to be tenderized.
Place 3/4 cup of minced tenderized conch meat in a mixing bowl. (About 6 ounces.)
Add 2 tablespoons of whisked egg.
Add 2 tablespoons of milk.
Add 2 tablespoons of minced celery.
Add 2 tablespoons of minced red bell pepper.
Add 1 tablespoon of minced green onion.
Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
Step 2: Add 1 pinch of thyme.
Add 2 pinches of oregano.
Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
Step 3: Add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda.
Add 1 tablespoon of all purpose flour.
Add 2 tablespoons of prepared corn flour. (Masa Harina)
Add 1 tablespoon of corn meal.
Stir the ingredients together.
Step 4: Check the consistency.
*The stiff fritter batter should be thick enough to hold its shape when scooped with a spoon. If the mixture is too loose and wet, then add a little more prepared corn flour. If the stiff batter is too dry, then add a little more milk.
Chill the stiff Conch Fritter Batter for 1 hour, so the flavors meld.
Step 5: Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360ºF.
Step 6: *If necessary, fry in small batches!
Select a small 1/2 ounce capacity sorbet scoop.
Scoop 1 ball shape of the conch fritter batter at a time and carefully drop each conch fritter batter ball into the hot frying oil.
Fry till the fritters are a light brown color and fully cooked. (The center temperature of each fritter should be at least 190ºF.)
Step 7: Use a fryer net to scoop the fried conch fritters out of the hot oil.
Place the conch fritters on a wire screen rack over a drip pan to drain off any excess oil.
Keep the fritters warm on a stove top.
Conch Fritters with Key Lime Chile Mayonnaise:
This recipe yields 1 petite appetizer portion.
Place a bed of Italian Parsley sprigs on a small appetizer plate.
Place a 2 ounce ramekin of Key Lime Chile Mayonnaise on the plate.
Place 6 Conch Fritters on the bed of parsley around the ramekin.
Conch Fritters are a nice appetizer before a seafood dinner and they are a great bar snack!