Renowned chef, restaurateur and master of the Caribbean’s “cuisine of the sun” Cindy Hutson has a new book out that you’ll want to read cover to cover if you’ve ever loved a fried grouper sandwich. With recipes from her travels, fishing expeditions, restaurants and other places you’ll find some of the best spicy grilled chicken on the planet, From the Tip of My Tongue is a fresh look at island cuisine from one of its champions.
In my early days of being a captain on a fishing boat out of Miami, I used to regularly take charters through the Florida Keys and over to the Bahamian island of Bimini. There, we stopped at Brown’s Marina, where a young Bahamian boy taught me how to pull conch from the shell and clean it. When you do this, a clear piece called a pistol, which looks like a small piece of cooked vermicelli, comes out of the conch. The Bahamians believe this is the conch’s “Viagra.” The young boy would fold his arms and tell me, smiling, that the pistol makes men “strong and last a long time.” Over on Harbour Island, it makes me laugh every time to see the conch men entertain the tourists and convince the men to eat that limp noodle, no pun intended, to keep them strong for their ladies. Of course, it should be noted that the pistol has no real flavor — and no real effect, either.
Take time to seek out the highest-quality conch available. It is okay to buy frozen product, but it should be from the Turks and Caicos Islands, Bahamas, or Belize or Honduras. It should be very white in color and have almost a sweet smell, similar to that of a fresh scallop.
- 1 pound conch, orange flaps removed and diced
- 2 cups diced vine-ripe tomatoes
- 1/2 cup brunoised red onion
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 Scotch bonnet chile pepper, seeded and minced
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 firm, ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and diced (optional)
- 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and diced (optional)
- 6 key limes
- 1 sour orange
- kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
For the ceviche
In a nonreactive, stainless steel bowl, place conch, tomatoes, onion, peppers and sugar.
Add one or both optional ingredients.
Squeeze key limes and sour orange over the ingredients.
Season with salt and pepper, then toss.
Taste and reseason if necessary, adding more sugar to reduce tartness.
Serve immediately at room temperature.