Creamy Cracked Conch Chowder with Saffron, Coconut, and Oranges

Total Time:
2 hr 40 min
Prep:
1 hr 15 min
Cook:
1 hr 25 min

Yield:
about 10 (8-ounce) portions
Level:
Advanced

Ingredients
  • Shellfish cream and garnish:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Scotch bonnet chile, stem and seeds discarded, minced
  • 6 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 12 small clams, scrubbed
  • 12 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 tablespoon roughly cracked black pepper
  • 3 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 scant tablespoon saffron
  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Vegetable Garnish:
  • 6 new potatoes, scrubbed and diced medium
  • 2 ounces smoked slab bacon, rind removed
  • 1/2 cup pure olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1 poblano chile, stem and seeds discarded, minced
  • 1/2 red onion, peeled and diced medium
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced medium
  • 1/2 bulb fennel, cored and diced medium
  • 2 celery stalks, cleaned and diced medium
  • 1 red bell pepper, stem and seeds discarded, diced medium
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 bay leaves, broken
  • Conch:
  • 3/4 pound cleaned, pounded conch
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten with 4 teaspoons half-and-half
  • 1 1/2 cups panko crumbs (Japanese)
  • Canola oil, to saute the conch
  • Orange sections, for garnish
  • Cilantro sprigs, for garnish
  • Toasted coconut, for garnish
Directions
Shellfish Cream:
  • Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the scotch bonnet, shallots, and garlic. Stir. Let the vegetables flavor the oil (about 1 minute). Now add the clams, mussels, star anise, and black pepper. Stir. Now add the orange juice and cover the pot. Remove the clams and mussels as they open to a colander set over a bowl to catch the liquid (they start opening after about 3 minutes, just take them out as they open and cover the pot again and just keep checking for more open ones.) Reserve the shellfish and add the juices back to the pan.

  • Allow the orange and shellfish juice to reduce, uncovered, until about 1 cup of liquid remains, about 10 minutes. Now add in the saffron, heavy cream, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Be careful, cream can boil over in a split seconds. Reduce the cream until it will just barely coat the back of a spoon, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain. Discard the solids. Reserve the flavored cream.

  • While the cream is reducing, removed the cooled mussels and clams from their shells. Reserve the meat and discard the shells.

  • Vegetable Garnish:

  • Put potatoes in a saucepot of lightly salted water. Bring to a boil and turn down heat and simmer until just done. Strain off the water. Reserve the potatoes.

  • In a large heavy soup pot cook the bacon with the olive oil over medium-high heat until the bacon is halfway cooked. Add the butter and stir. Add the garlic and chiles and stir briefly. Add the rest of the vegetables except the potatoes and stir to coat. Add the salt and pepper, cilantro, and bay leaf. Cook until the vegetables are cooked, but still firm, about 8 minutes.

  • Add the reserved potatoes, saffron cream, clams and mussels.

  • Conch:

  • Season the conch with salt and pepper. Dredge the conch in the flour, then the egg mixture, and then the panko. Place on a large plate or pan as they are coated. You can layer them if you separate the breaded pieces with waxed paper or plastic wrap.

  • To finish the dish:

  • Heat the soup until quite warm. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough canola oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Saute the conch, in batches, adding more oil as necessary, until nicely colored on both sides. Remove to a paper towel lined plate. Once the conch is all cooked, chop it into pieces. Ladle the soup into warm bowls and scatter the cooked conch over the soup. Garnish with orange sections, cilantro leaves, and toasted coconut.


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