Laissez les bon temps rouler!
With Fat Tuesday right around the corner, I’ve got Cajun cooking on the brain– specifically Turtle Soup! I first tried it at Commander’s Palace restaurant in New Orleans and was thrilled to learn they share the recipe in their fantastic cookbook “Commander’s Kitchen.” Perfect for Mardi Gras, this soup is hearty like a stew and can be served as a main meal. Or, serve as an appetizer in coffee cups (topped off with a traditional splash of sherry) and follow with a main course of Red Beans and Rice or a big pot of Gumbo, with yummy Red Velvet Skillet Cake for dessert.
Turtle meat is VERY hard to find if you live outside of Louisiana but I’ve had great success ordering from Louisiana Crawfish Company. They ship overnight and their customer service is excellent. You can also substitute beef or veal for the turtle, which is referred to as Mock Turtle Soup. But for our recipe, we went all out with the real thing! Here’s how my turtle meat showed up:
Adapted (very little) from Commander’s Palace cookbook “Commander’s Kitchen”
Servings: about 24 appetizer or 12 entree servings
12 tablespoons ( 1 1/2 sticks) butter
2 1/2 pounds turtle meat, cut into about 1/2 inch dice (beef, or a combination of lean beef and veal stew meat may be substituted)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 medium onions, chopped into 1/4 inch dice
6 celery stalks, chopped into 1/4 inch dice
1 large head of garlic, all cloves peeled and minced
3 green bell peppers, chopped into 1/4 inch dice
1 tablespoon ground dried thyme
1 tablespoon ground dried oregeno
4 bay leaves
2 quarts of veal stock (beef stock can be substituted)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 bottle (750ml) dry sherry
1 tablespoon hot sauce or to taste
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 large lemons, juiced
3 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
10 ounces fresh spinach, washed thoroughly, stems removed and coarsely chopped
6 hard boiled eggs, chopped into about 1/2 inch pieces
extra sherry for topping off (optional)
In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Brown the meat in the hot butter, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 18-20 minutes, or until liquid is almost evaporated.
Add the stock, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
While stock is simmering, make the roux. In a separate small saucepan, melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the flour a little at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to burn the roux. After all the flour has been added, cook for about 3 minutes until the roux smells nutty, is pale in color and has the consistency of wet sand. Set aside until the soup is ready.
Simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking on the bottom.
Next, add the sherry, bring to a boil, add the hot sauce and the Worcestershire sauce and simmer, skimming off any fat or foam that comes to the top.
Add the lemon juice and tomatoes and return to a simmer.
Add the spinach and the chopped egg, bring to a simmer and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
*It’s traditional after you ladle the soup into a cup or bowl to top it off with a splash of sherry. Serve with crusty french bread.
*This soup freezes well for a couple of months (stored in an airtight, freezer safe container) as does any left over turtle meat.
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