Continuing my desire to showcase recipes from time to time of ‘out-of-ordinary’ features, I am today sharing one I’ve had now for some while, so long in fact I had almost forgotten about it. From my Shut Yo Mouth collection of fine food dishes comes this stew-like soup that is synonymous in fine dining establishment along the coast, especially in New Orleans, as say Gumbo and Oyster Soup. Y’all do remember another Shut Yo Mouth recipe on the subject a while back – Meat Pies? Well, the one below is actually requested.
After a somewhat lengthy conversation with my doctor, we began talking of dining establishments and of favorite foods, one of his being a bowl of Turtle Soup. Now there are many versions, most are thin, made of light broths and with bits of beef or veal but the ones that get our palates slippery are thick as Creole gravy and heartier than a bowl of grillades right from a boucherie’s pot, French influenced of course. Now, the lip-smacker taste in a real delectable bowl of Turtle Soup, yup, is the use of real turtle meat and the snapping turtle variety is preferred. But these days, a good snapping cooter is hard to come by not to mention, turtles are being snatched up along the Mobile-Tensaw Delta faster than China’s leader-in-waiting can throw a conniption fit, then are shipped off to Asian markets. Seems Asia has over-harvested it’s share of cooters and that is why they are after ours.
Now from what I remember about Turtle Soup, ya just gotta start with a good dark roux followed of course by the trinity of southern cookery. Rich broth from only roasted cowan (that’s Creole for turtle) maybe beef bones (or ox tails) thrown in for good measure, ripe juicy Creole fresh tomatoes must be added along with a few ingredients from your everyday Creole spice rack. And don’t forget grated turtle eggs and a good kiss of a hot sauce made from vintage dry sherry and bird’s-eye peppers. Well, that’s what I remember but that don’t mean it’s what we might get. You see, I’m not in a turtle hunting mood and my nearest Asian market does not carry turtle meat. Sorry Doc. So here is the recipe with a few alternative suggestions to make a ‘Mock Turtle Soup’ which is still a very desirable, yet rich soup. Enjoy!
Creole Turtle Soup
This is a very complex soup as turtle meat can be dominating as well as bold in flavor. Some folks say turtles consist of seven varying flavors of meat and a really good soup will use all of these areas of the turtle.
2 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound turtle meat cut into varying 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes (or veal, beef, alligator, maybe a little ham for flavoring)
2 medium white onions, finely diced
4 stalks of celery, finely diced
1/4 cup green bell pepper, finely diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup green onion, finely sliced
2 bay leaves
pinch of allspice and cayenne
1 teaspoon crushed oregano
1/2 teaspoons crushed thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried Marjoram
1 1/2 pounds fresh Creole tomatoes, pureed (or about 6 medium very ripe on-the-vine type)
1 quart stock from roasted turtle (or oxtail and beef bones)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 teaspoons finely chopped Italian parsley
3 hard boiled eggs, whites diced and yolks riced
1/2 cup Madeira wine or 1/4 cup dry sherry
lemon slices and finely chopped Italian parsley for garnishment
In a heavy bottomed skillet (preferably cast-iron), melt the 1 cup of butter over medium high heat. Whisk in the flour. Cook to make a peanut butter colored roux lifting the flour from the bottom with a flat-tip spatula. Be careful not to scorch when making roux with butter. Turn down heat as roux begins to darken stirring all while making it dark brown. Or, you can use my browned flour method (see Turkey Bone Gumbo) for a faster making roux. Set aside.
In a 5-quart saucepan, add the 2 tablespoons of butter along with the olive oil over high heat; add turtle meat. Cook stirring until the meat is brown. Add onions, celery, green pepper, garlic, green onion and seasonings. Lower heat to medium and cook until the vegetables are tender.
Stir in the tomato purée, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Note: if your tomatoes are not meaty, add a tablespoon or two of canned tomato puree. Add the stock and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender. Remove bay leaves. Slowly stir in the roux and cook over low heat stirring until the soup thickens and is smooth. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon juice and 3 teaspoons of parsley.
When ready to serve, add the riced egg yolks to the soup, stir to incorporate and ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle the egg whites over the soup, add a lemon slice and a garnish of chopped parsley. Spoon the Madeira (4 teaspoons ea serving) or dry sherry (2 teaspoons) on the soup at the table.