Seeking culinary adventures while vacationing in New Orleans, Dorothy and I thought what better way to begin than to dine at Commander’s Palace. We’d heard so much about the great food and impeccable service, and we were very excited about the evening’s possibilities.
As a first course we ordered turtle soup. It was suggested by our waiter that we might order a glass of sherry to drink with the soup, and we followed his advice.
The soup arrived at our table. It had a wonderful aroma and a deep brown color with a thick almost stew-like consistency. We could see small pieces of turtle meat poking out of the broth. It was also served with a small side of sherry to be drizzled on the soup. We tasted the soup, and it was absolutely delicious.
After arriving back home, I couldn’t wait to try to cook it myself. I found a website selling exotic meats that offered turtle, so I ordered it. I then began my search for a soup recipe. I actually found what claimed to be a Commander’s Palace version.
While waiting for the turtle meat to arrive, I found some interesting facts. There are supposed to be seven kinds of meat in a turtle, with each different meat tasting either like chicken, beef, shrimp, pork, veal, fish, or goat. I also found out turtle soup was President Taft’s favorite food, and given that the White House had to custom build a bathtub to accommodate his girth, you’ve got to respect his opinion.
The turtle meat finally arrived. I let it thaw and then started the preparation. The turtle meat smelled of mud and several other aromas I couldn’t identify. I cleaned it and then chopped it into a fine dice.
This foul-smelling meat, when cooked together with the rest of the ingredients, turned out to be a delicious soup. It was a bit chewier than the Commander’s Palace version, and there may have been an ingredient or two purposely left out of the online recipe, but to us it was a Louisiana delicacy nevertheless.
Turtle Soup (A Louisiana Delicacy)
1 lb.Turtle meat less than 1/2 inch dice
3 clovesGarlic very fine dice
1 cup eachCelery, bell pepper, white onion all very finely diced
1 1/2 cupsTomato purée (14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes)
1 TbspHot sauce
2 TbspWorcestershire sauce
To tastePepper black
2 quartsBeef stock
To tasteSalt and pepper
4 TbspDry Sherry
Enter Target Time _______________
For tomato purée, in a food processor, purée a 14.5 oz. can of organic diced fire-roasted tomatoes.
Mis en place: 1 stick butter, flour, 2 Tbsp butter, turtle meat, garlic, (celery, bell pepper, onion, bay leaves, oregano), (tomato puree, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper), beef stock, lemon, spinach, sherry, sherry for the table.
Time: __________ (90 minutes prior to target time)
Over med-low heat in skillet melt 1 stick of butter and incorporate flour to make a roux (for specifics for roux, look under shrimp & andouille etouffee). Takes about 25 min.
In a 4-quart heavy-bottomed pot melt 2 Tbsp butter. Add turtle meat (that’s been cleaned, drained, and cut into a fine dice) and brown over med-high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant around 3 minutes.
Add celery, bell pepper, onion, bay leaves, and oregano. Cook until vegetables are transparent.
Add tomato purée, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Add stock and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add roux and cook over low heat, stirring until roux is incorporated.
Correct with salt and pepper. Add lemon, spinach, and sherry.
Add more sherry if desired at the table.