For the Chinese it is an affinity for abalone. For the Italians it's scungili. We Puerto Ricans call it carrucho. What we are talking about is the flesh found in conch shells. This dish exemplifies the different mindset of different cultures. To most North Americans the conch shell is used solely for ornamentation. To Latinos---as well as people of the Mediterranean and Asia---this mollusk is used for food and ornamentation.

Conch meat cam be found in any Hispanic or Oriental fish market. Most fishmongers order it on request. You can purchase it already cleaned or you can save pennies and do it yourself. The excess film that covers the skin has to be removed. This can be done best under cold running water.

In the Caribbean, caruccho sandwiches are very popular. You can take the dish given below and place it between two slices of bread, or on a roll, on even on a bagel. Or you can serve it with white steamed rice or small red potatoes. It should be noted that the recipe given is from my first cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Avalon Books - Thunders Mouth Press)

CARRUCHO (Conch Meat)

3 pounds conch meat, cleaned
1/4 cup water
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons salt
8 whole black peppercorns
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/4 cup pimento stuffed Spanish olives
1/8 teaspoon sage

1. Place cleaned conch in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup water and lemon juice and let stand for 10 minutes.
2. Remove conch meat to a heavy pot or kettle with water to cover. Add salt and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmered, covered, for 1 hour.
3. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, cut into small bite-sized pieces. Place in a serving bowl or casserole dish.
4. Crush peppercorns, garlic and oregano in a mortar. Mix with vinegar and olive oil. Add to conch meat.
5. Add onions, tomatoes and olives. Sprinkle with sage and toss well.
6. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes; and serve.
     Yield: 4 servings

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