Channeling Jimmy Buffett: Conch Fritters
The Wife and I were in Key West a couple of years ago, and to give you a little back story - whenever I get the chance, I like to visit a place that Jimmy Buffett has sung about. Key West obviously lends itself to that kind of bucket list.
Captain Tony's - the bar mentioned in Last Mango in Paris - we had a beer there and pinned our business cards to the wall. We wandered down Caroline Street and tipped our hats to an early ballad Woman Going Crazy on Caroline Street. The Margaritaville store was a given, but we never spend much time there - why stay in the recreated paradise when you're steps away from the places that inspired it?
I was able to talk the wife into walking to the south end of Duval Street to Louie's Backyard.
A little history: Jimmy Buffett's first apartment in Key West was next door to Louie's Backyard in the 70's. There's a line in Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season that goes "knew I could use a bloody mary, so I stumbled over to Louie's Backyard..."
The restaurant at Louie's is beautiful, dark wood with whites and bright colors - but to get to the real beauty of the place walk right through the restaurant to the Afterdeck. There's a bar on the left, and a deck that seems to go right to the water's edge and then it's just turquoise water until Havana, a mere 90 miles away.
The Wife and I made our way to the outside bar, ordered a couple of drinks and looked over the menu. The conch fritters intrigued us because they were served with pepper jelly and wasabi. As any good and curious foodie would do, we had to try it. We were hooked. And thanks to Jason at Olio who keeps conch on the shelves I was finally able to try this recipe from the Louie's Back Yard Cookbook.
It was easy to make - I'd recommend going heavy on the conch. And an important note on the conch - you'll need to dice it, mash it in a mortar and pestle or, as I did, run it through a food processor to grind it up. It comes in about quarter sized pieces, but it's too tough to leave as is.
1 Extra Large Egg
1/2 Cup Milk
1 1/4 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Tbsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Lb. Conch Meat (ground - see note above)
2 Tbsp Finely Chopped Yellow Onion
2 Tbsp Finely Diced Red Bell Pepper
2 Tbsp Finely Diced Green Bell Pepper
2 tsp Minced Jalapeno Pepper
1/4 Cup Beer
4 Squirts Tabasco Sauce (we were out, so I use Srirachi)
Oil for Frying
1/2 Cup Hot Pepper Jelly
Beat the egg and milk together in a large bowl. Sift in the flour, salt an baking powder and stir well. Add the conch, onions, peppers, beer and Tabasco and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or until ready to cook.
Heat the oil in a deep fryer to 360 degrees. Add one tablespoon of the fritter mix at a time ( I used an ice cream scoop). Let them fry for about 7 minutes, until the outside is a golden brown.
Drain on a paper towel and serve with hot pepper jelly and wasabi. They key is to spread the wasabi on the fritter, then dip in the pepper jelly.