On a frigid Louisiana day, there are few dishes that can warm the soul like turtle soup. I don’t mind eating turtle. The meat is lovely in texture and taste. For those who feel terrible about eating the slowest reptile alive, I have a story for you. Traipsing through my grandmother’s flooded backyard one day, I found a poor, diminutive turtle. My heart broke watching the reptile struggle through the cold mud. I knew the tike needed my help. As I stepped closer, I realized that it was a snapping turtle. Against my better judgment and my parent’s warnings against touching snapping turtles, I picked up the trooper and nestled it on the porch for safety and warmth. Carefully picking the creature up by the underbelly, I observed his facial features. The one attribute that stood out the most was his nose, which was shaped like a snout on a pig. Accordingly and appropriately, I named him Bacon. I was beyond thrilled with my new best friend.
Greens were Bacon’s favorite. I watched him chew on a piece of iceberg for hours, and we both seemed quite content. Then, on that fateful day, Bacon got greedy. Tired of greens, he slinked into his shell, refusing to make an appearance. As I went to brush mud off his shell and entice him to reconcile, his head plunged forward and he attempted to nip the end of my pointer finger! I sat on the porch yelling, “Bacon, I am not a vegetable!” He didn’t seem remorseful so I allowed the unrepentant beast to escape in a ditch behind my grandmother’s house. That was the last time I harbored a turtle. So, now you may be able to understand why I am untouched by the idea of ladling into a bowl of turtle soup, and slowly, purposefully biting into the delectable turtle meat with a smile. This bowl is in remembrance of Bacon.
Recipe: Serves 6
6 tablespoons of butter
1 pound of diced turtle meat, or ground sirloin if you can’t find turtle meat
1 onion, diced
3 stalk of celery, diced
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 ½ bell peppers, chopped
1 teaspoon of ground oregano
1 teaspoon of thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
8 cups of veal or beef stock
½ cup of flour
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 lemon, juiced
1 ½ cups of whole San Marzano tomatoes, chopped
6 ounces of fresh spinach, stems removed and roughly chopped
3 eggs, hard-boiled and roughly chopped
Salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add meat to the pot and cook with butter until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Season meat with salt, pepper and cayenne. Add vegetables, oregano, thyme and bay leaves to the pot and cook until the vegetables brown, about 25 minutes. Add the stock to the pot, season and bring to boil then reduce to simmer for about 30 minutes.
While the stock is simmering, make the roux in a separate saucepan. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons of butter on low heat. Slowly add the flour until all of the flour has been added. Cook the roux until it smells nutty and is pale in color. This should just take a few minutes. Set aside.
Once the soup has simmered for 30 minutes, add the roux slowly into the soup with a whisk to prevent lumping. Let the soup simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning at the bottom of the pot. Add the Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, tomatoes, spinach and eggs. Bring to simmer and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve with a good Sherry on the side if desired!