The Bahamas are brimming with hidden treasures. Even crawling with island-hopping cruisers there is always a new adventure to embark on. If you’re into that sort of thing. The guidebooks give highlights of the major tourist destinations: swimming pigs, iguana islands, sunken planes and that sort of thing.
But as with anywhere, some of the most exciting things are hidden. The best is meeting someone in love with the place just bursting with suggestions. We met that couple in George Town.
Suddenly, I saw a life-sized grand piano materialize out of the blue background with a mermaid sitting at the keyboard. I can’t say whether or not it was a life-sized mermaid as I haven’t seen one yet.
“It’s here! I see it!” I shouted to the guys in the dinghy to stop and tried my best to swim over to it.
Even with Taira San’s flippers on it was like running on a treadmill that’s gone insane I wasn’t gaining any ground against the strong current. I struggled back to the dinghy and grabbed ahold of the paddle “Just go back to where I was,” I instructed. Easier said than done: the current hadn’t merely kept me away from the statue. Much to my chagrin they hadn’t thrown out the dinghy anchor when I had shouted discovery and we were almost back at the yacht. We had to start the search all over again. At least we knew we were in the right place.
With Sato San and I dragging through the water holding on to the back of the paddle board we earched, peering into a world of blue. Sato San spotted her first this time. The mermaid sat at her massive grand piano, stone tresses flowing. This time we anchored the dinghy close to our quarry.
After fighting the current swimming to the mermaid and fighting the current conching I was more than ready for an afternoon nap when we got back to the boat. By the time I woke up the boys had gone through the rigorous task of shelling and cleaning the conchs we had gathered that day. They had already planned what was going to be for dinner.
I had been leery of working with conch for quite a while. More than just being difficult to clean and cook, the only ways I have seen it served in the Bahamas is in a stew or as cracked conch, or deep-fried. I have had good cracked conch, but still. I’m not the biggest fan of fried food and Umineko is a fry-free boat. Seriously, Sato San has a rule… frying is dangerous underway and too messy in port. So absolutely no frying on Umineko. I’m not complaining.
The more I work with conch though the more I like it. The delicate flavor is reminiscent of clams, but it is a taste entirely its own. Better still, each conch (which you can buy from fishermen for $2-3 or catch and clean yourself) has an enormous amount of meat (compared to other shellfish) and if you pressure cook it tender you can use it in any number of ways.
I’ve never seen conch in white wine sauce in restaurants or recipes, but this may be my favorite recipe:
Whitecap Conch in White Wine Sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t freshly ground black pepper
½ c conch stock (half salt water half fresh)
1 tomato, sliced in wedges
Chop conch into chunks and pressure cook ½ hour or until tender
Cook spaghetti 7-8 minutes
Sauté garlic and onions in olive oil until onions translucent and garlic golden-brown
Add conch, stock, lemon juice, salt, and ground pepper and simmer for 7 minutes
Stir in butter until melted
Add flour and simmer another 3 minutes until slightly thickened
Mix sauce with pasta
Dish out, sprinkle with parmesan
I like to serve with rosemary garlic foccacia
*tip* If you do try to catch and clean it by yourself – seeing the enormous shells in the translucent
waters is hard to resist – then a word of advice. Vinegar. Once you get the animals out of their shell it is like a giant sneezed all over the meat. I am sure there is an organ or something that you can remove to take care of the mess. I just don’t know where it is. The nasty stuff is almost impossible to get off without a ton of soap, water, and paper towels. However, your basic white vinegar cuts right through it like magic. I just wish I’d known that the innumerable times I struggled through removing the snot the old-fashioned way.