Cape Cod Sea Snails, Conch , Channel Whelk. A New England Delicacy?
Yesterday morning I went to visit a small seafood distributor on the docks of the Boston Fish Pier, our primary goal was to try and continue to grow the list of participants for the Trace & Trust program. During our visit the owner of Reds Best (Jared Auerbach) showed us around his small and empty warehouse ( empty coolers are what you want to see in a Seafood distributors place). Some amazing fish but most interesting for me was the Sea Snails or Channel Whelk he had. Snails are considered an esoteric foreign sort of delicacy, certainly not associated with a New England fishery. But our largest snail, the channel whelk or conch, is a multi-million dollar product based around Cape Cod.Whelk are really very large snails with relatively ornate coiled shells. They slide along the sea bottom in shallow waters. Jared was generous enough to let us take some back and work with them to see what we thought.
I have known about local "Conch" for years but have never thought about using it on the menu. But as I continue to dive deeper ( no pun) into the local New England fishing scene I am discovering an abundance of local delicacies that I am now committed to sharing with my guests.
We noticed that right off the bat the Sea snails were very tough, rubbery and difficult to chew. We sliced and grilled a few pieces and both Chris (Executive Sous Chef) and I were not impressed with the cooked version.
Chris went ahead and made a ceviche with diced meat and I took one of the larger sea snails and sliced it on the slicer as thin as possible for a carpaccio. Both of these preparations were awesome! The carpaccio style was by far the best dish but the ceviche continued to get more tender as it sat in the ceviche style we made.
I am very excited to continue to explore the possibilities with Cape Cod Sea Snails....maybe sous vide is the answer to the cooked version, stay tuned to find out. In the mean time support your local conch fisherman a multi million dollar industry that gets exported away. Help keep the money local and buy Cape Cod Conch!