It is interesting to me to find out what people like to collect when they travel. All the tourist hot spots are filled with tchotchke shops peddling magnets, spoons, thimbles and snow globes. Photos are always the best souvenir, and I also like to collect Christmas ornaments so that at the end of the year I can take a nice trip down memory lane reminiscing about all of the places I’ve been.
But my favorite travel collection has to be my recipes. From bed and breakfasts to restaurants, I try and get a recipe from everywhere I go … and sometimes even places that I’ve never been just so I can savor the flavor! When ever I make these dishes at home, my senses trick me into thinking I’ve traveled someplace further than my kitchen. This recipe is one of those. Even after I run out of Kermit’s Key Lime Marmalade and I just use regular orange flavored, I will still think of Key West each time I make it.
Recently I ran in the Key West Half Marathon, and afterward, no amount of post-race bagels, bananas or beer could satiate the hunger I worked up after trotting along 13 miles around the island. We stopped by a local healthy eatery, Help Your Self, for some fresh machete cut coconut water. And while that was an awesome island experience, my friends and I needed some calories.
That’s where the Conch Republic comes in. My Key West Islander friend, Vanessa, recommended them for their excellent sea food, gorgeous view of the water and ultimately their proximity to Kermit’s Key Lime Shop for dessert. We had had our heart set on beer and a burger at Sloppy Joes … but I’m glad she convinced us otherwise! The Conch Republic happens to have the best cracked conch on the island, something I’ve never tried before.
I had to ask, what is the difference between plain ole “conch” and “crack conch.” I’ve had conch fritters, which are a lot like meaty hush puppies. But when the dish was brought to the table I quickly discovered this was the real deal. Big chunks of tender meat deep fried to golden perfection. I loved it. This is a recipe I wanted. But fresh conch is something I would be afraid to tackle at home. Have you ever seen one? It’s like a big slimy snail that takes some major tenderizing to make it chewable. Do you remember as a kid, those cheap toys that were water filled flexible rubber tubes (kind of like a big fat worm) and when you squeezed it would shoot out of your hands? I imagine tenderizing conch would be something like that … chasing a slimy snail-like sea creature around my kitchen counter with a tenderizing gavel and having it slip out of reach each time. But when it’s prepared the way these guys did, it’s delish! So instead of having a frustrating conch experience at home, I got the recipe for the “secret sauce.”
At the Conch Republic, they serve their cracked conch with a simple Orange Horseradish Marmalade Sauce. You can’t get any more “Florida” flavor than with orange marmalade. I asked our server if the chef would give me me recipe, and moments later the manager walked over with a bar coaster and four basic ingredients scribbled on the back. PRICELESS! That is exactly the feeling of Key West … laid back and not fussy.
Don’t believe me about the recipe on a coaster? Well … here it is! They always say the best ideas are the ones written on a bar or cafe napkin or coaster.
Later we walked across the street to indulge in some famous Kermit’s Frozen Key Lime Pie Dipped In Chocolate On A Stick. Yes, you read that right … dipped … in chocolate … on a stick. It’s divine. While standing in line to pay for our coffee and pie, I noticed a big fat coffee table book on the counter … National Geographic’s Top 500 Food Journey’s of a Lifetime, of which Kermit’s was listed. Bonus. I now had a new bucket list to complete and only 499 more “food journey’s” to go. We took our coffee, afternoon indulgences along with the book and headed out to Kermit’s patio to relax and take in some sunshine.
Want to bring some of that Florida sunshine into your kitchen? Try this quick and easy sauce recipe below …
Orange Horseradish Marmalade Sauce
From the Conch Republic Seafood Company, Key West, FL
1/4 Cup Orange Juice
1/4 Cup Lime Juice
1/2 Cup Orange Marmalade
2 Tbsp Horseradish
Mix all ingredients together and use as a marinade or serve as a dipping sauce with fresh seafood or chicken.
It’s actually pretty tastey with eggs in the morning too!
BONUS: Do you know all the names of Kermit’s Koi?
It may just be on a #TravelTuesday Trivia sometime soon!