In the South of Florida and the Caribbean, seafood remains the main source of protein for many of its indigenous people. As such, you’ll find fish and mollusks worked into any number of dishes, from salads to fritters and endless varieties of preparation. Today, I’m sharing one of my favorite hearty soups: Gulf Shrimp and Conch Soup. Be prepared: the aroma of this slowly simmering on your cooktop will likely bring everyone in the house into the kitchen to hover and wonder when it will be finished.
The Queen Conch is native to the Florida coast and the Caribbean, and it’s long been a staple for islanders. The meat is sweet, but very chewy unless it’s slow-cooked. This recipe combines the flavors of conch and shrimp, sweet root vegetables, and some spice from Scotch Bonnet chiles. If you’re not in Florida and you want to try this recipe, you can find frozen conch meat online (Amazon) and have it shipped to you.
1⁄4 cup clarified butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
8 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1⁄4 cup AP flour
1 1⁄2 lb. conch meat, cut into 1⁄2″ cubes
1lb small shrimp, peeled and de-veined
3 cups shrimp stock
1 Scotch bonnet chile, split in half and seeded
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, stripped from woody stem
1 chayote squash, cubed
1 large yellow yam or sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 medium carrot, peeled and cubed
1 plantain, peeled and cubed
2 tbsp. Parsley, finely chopped
4 green onions, chopped on a bias
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a Dutch oven or large stock pot, heat butter and then add garlic and onion; cook, stirring often, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add flour, sugar, turmeric, and paprika, and cook, stirring, until smooth, about 2 minutes; add conch meat, shrimp stock and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until conch meat is tender, about 2 hours. Add thyme, yam, carrot, chayote, plantain, and chile, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add shrimp and cook 2 more minutes before removing from heat. Season with salt and pepper, then top each serving bowl with a pinch of parsley and green onions.