Monday, March 3, 2014

Conch Fritters with Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce

My family loves to vacation in the Florida Keys. Key West, in particular, is a trip we always enjoy. The fishing, the snorkeling, the sunsets, the night life, and the food. Ah, the food. Fresh seafood, Cuban sandwiches and cafecito, daiquiris, key lime pie. All enjoyed in a laid back yet vibrant setting. It's hard to have a bad meal in Key West. But, the one dish that we look forward to more than any other is the conch. To sit down with a plate of conch fritters and a nice cold adult beverage is the first thing that we do when we hit town. And it's a ritual that we repeat as often as possible while there.


Conch is difficult to find outside of the Florida area, but I have been ordering it (canned) from Amazon for years now. There are many different brands, and they all seem fairly similar to me. I have also substituted canned clams for the conch in a pinch, and the taste is good, as well. I've been told that you could also make fritters with shrimp, crab, or even alligator meat, but I've yet to try those out. I'm sure that they would be great, but different than conch. One other thing...most people serve conch fritters with a remoulade dipping sauce, but my recipe is pretty spicy on its own. So I've chosen to use a creamy cilantro sauce instead. If you'd like to sweeten things up a bit, a pineapple chutney or salsa works, as well. These are a real crowd pleaser and are best served fresh and hot. So...here's to Key West and good times! Cheers!

Conch Fritters with Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce
by Chris

1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less, to taste)
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt (I used Slap Ya Mama Original Cajun seasoning)
Salt and pepper to taste (I used about 5-6 grinds of fresh black pepper and a pinch of salt)
1 small packet of Sazon seasoning
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 cup canned conch meat, drained and chopped (or you can substitute clams, shrimp, or crab meat)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Vegetable oil (or other), for frying

Place the corn meal, self-rising flour, cayenne pepper, seasoned salt, salt and pepper, Sazon, baking soda, and parsley flakes into a large bowl, mix well, and set aside. Put the conch meat (or meat of your choice), red bell pepper, red onion, and garlic cloves into a food processor and mince. You want the processed mixture to be very fine, as you do not want huge chunks of vegetable or meat in your final product. Once meat mixture is ready, heat 2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium/medium high heat in a non-stick skillet. Saute the meat mixture for 3-5 minutes, or until the veggies have softened and most of the liquid has cooked off. Be careful not to overcook or burn! Allow the meat mixture to cool for a few minutes, then add to the bowl of dry ingredients and slowly incorporate. This step may take a few minutes, but be gentle when combining the two. At this point, add the egg, milk, and Worcestershire sauce to the other ingredients and stir gently to combine. Place fritter batter into the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. I have left it overnight and had great success the next day!

When ready to fry the fritters, heat at least 2 inches of vegetable oil in a medium saucepan (or use a deep fryer, if you have one) to medium/medium high heat (around 365°F works for me, but you might need to adjust your temperature depending on the size of your fritters). When oil is heated, drop batter by the Tablespoon (approximately) gently into the hot oil. I use a small ice cream-type scoop to make mine. The baking soda and the self-rising flour will both make the fritters "puff up" when cooked, so they will be larger when you remove them than they were when you placed them in the oil to fry. I put 5-6 fritters in the oil per batch, but you may do more or less, depending on the size of your fryer/pan. Allow the fritters to cook for about 5-6 minutes. They will sink to the bottom of the pot at first, but will rise to the top as they cook. When they have risen to the top and are still cooking, use a set of tongs and gently flip them a time or two, to insure even internal heat. Remove the entire batch of fritters from the oil, drain on a paper towel-lined plate, and allow your oil to heat up again for 2-3 minutes between batches.

Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce 
adapted from The Kitchen Whisperer Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce

3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2-3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (to taste)
1-2 green onions, tops (green part) only
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (or less, to taste)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used less, although the original recipe called for more. The fritters are pretty spicy on their own!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Put all ingredients into a food processor and mix well, until smooth. I suggest that you begin with the listed amounts of sour cream and mayo and the lesser amounts of the other ingredients. I found that the cayenne, onions, and black pepper added quite a bit of heat to the otherwise cooling sauce. Please just play with the amounts and do what is pleasing to your crowd. After all of the ingredients are well-blended, taste and adjust to your liking. Don't forget that the flavors will get stronger over time. Let the dipping sauce chill in the refrigerator for an hour or two, to let the flavors develop. Enjoy!

2 comments:

  1. Your fritters sound amazing and better than the ones we've had here in Key West!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sandra, thank you for your sweet compliment! I hope that someday we can have a Conch Fritter Comparison... Have a safe trip!- Chris

      Delete