About a thousand years ago, on a cruise, I watched a dockman pull up a mesh bag of conch from the water, crack one open, hack it up and squeeze a variety of fresh citrus over it. He sprinkled some spices over top and handed it to me. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever eaten. I figured I would try and re-create it here. Now, the closest body of salt water from Colorado is, well, I guess if you want to be technical about it, it’s the Great Salt Lake in Utah. But the closest place you’re likely to find conch is several thousand miles away. This is a (mostly) accurate accounting of my conversation with Chris, the fish monger at my local Whole Foods:
Me: Hi Chris, it's Rachael. Do you have any conch?
Chris: Nope, sorry.
Me: Can you order any?
Chris: Hang on. (mumblemumblemumble). Uh, Rachael?
Me: Yes Chris?
Chris: We can order it, but.....(trailing off).
Me: But what?
Chris: It's 35 dollars a pound.
Chris: And you have to order it in 5 pound blocks
Me: How are your scallops looking today?
Test Kitchen Notes
One bite of Niknud’s Supposed to be Conch Ceviche transports you to a sunny clime; a prescription to cure your winter blues could not be easier. Clean and bright, you bathe the scallops in a symphony of citrus juices, each imparting a slightly different note. Anchored by the bitter grapefruit, lime adds a tart punch, while orange complements the sweet shellfish. Jalapeno, red onion, avocado and orange segments add contrast in texture and flavor that make it difficult to stop eating. When enjoyed atop a crisp cracker or chip, as I did, it is easy to make a meal of this dish. I did add a pinch of salt at the end; to my palate, it sharpened the contrast in flavors. One note: I used fresh sea scallops instead of bay scallops and cut them into quarters. This added to the “cooking” time. Instead of 75 minutes, mine took a little over two hours. —gingerroot
Juice of 1/2 grapefruit
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 4 limes
Oranges, segmented (the fancy way)
Diced red onion
Jalapeno, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds and ribs removed and sliced into thin half-moons
Zest of 1 lime
Torn cilantro leaves
In This Recipe
Combine the first three ingredients in a bowl and add the scallops. Cover and refrigerate until the scallops are 'cooked' through, stirring occasionally. Took mine about 75 minutes.
While you're waiting for the scallops to be done, combine the red onion, segmented oranges (no bother if the juice drips in the bowl while your segmenting), lime zest and jalapeno.
When the scallops are done, add them to the bowl (feel free to add a little extra citrus juice of your choice here if it seems a little dry) and stir. Gently fold in the avocado and cilantro. Add salt and pepper if you like - I didn't.
Thoughts: Didn't have time to try this version out, but I was noodling around in my brain with a Thai version as well. Use only lime juice with some sugar and a splash of fish sauce to 'cook' the scallops. Replace the jalapeno with thin rounds of those blazing hot thai finger peppers. Use thinly sliced shallots instead of red onion. Use mint instead of cilantro. Omit the avocado.
Full-time working wife and mother of two small boys whose obsessive need to cook delicious food is threatening to take over what little free time I have. I grew up in a family of serious cookers but didn't learn to cook myself until I got married and got out of the military and discovered the joys of micro-graters, ethiopian food, immersion blenders and watching my husband roll around on the floor after four servings of pulled pork tamales (with real lard!) complaining that he's so full he can't feel his legs. Trying to graduate from novice cooker to ranked amateur. The days of 'the biscuit incident of aught five' as my husband refers to it are long past but I still haven't tried my hand at paella so I'm a work in progress!