Turtle Soup is almost as synonymous with Nola Cuisine as Gumbo, in fact, it probably outsells the Gumbo in a lot of establishments. Unlike the clear Turtle Soups made in other parts of the world, the Louisiana variety is a dark, robust soup, bordering on a stew. There are also Mock Turtle Soups which are good as well, usually made with Beef and Veal. I have more than a sneaking suspicion that most restaurant versions are a combination of the two. Turtles are said to contain about 7 different flavors of meat, so it would be very easy to slip a more inexpensive meat in with the Turtle, I’ve even heard of some places slipping in some Alligator. I always raise an eyebrow when the “Turtle Meat” in some versions is ground, as opposed to cubed, it’s a red flag that says “Probably Not All Turtle Meat Here.” That’s fine though, they still taste delicious, and it would take a very refined palate to tell the difference.
As far as finding Turtle Meat in your area, you may have a bit of a challenge. If you have a great Asian Market in your area, it’s probably your best bet, they may even have them live if you would like to butcher them yourself. It’s a messy business though, with a lot of blood and Post Mortem squirming. No thanks, I buy frozen. If you do butcher your own you will have access to ingredients that squeamish cooks like myself can’t find in the freezer. Calipash and Calipee, and possibly Turtle eggs. Some connoisseurs have said that they can tell if a Turtle Soup is truly authentic by the lumps of Calipash and Calipee in the soup. Calipash is the dull-green fatty substance inside the upper shell (Carapace). Calipee is the light yellow fatty substance attached to the bottom shell (Plastron).
If you can purchase bone-in Turtle Meat, do so! You can Roast the bones and infuse the flavor into your Beef Stock. Roast them in a 400 degree F oven until a nice deep brown, then add them to your Beef Stock and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour.
Here is my recipe:
Creole Turtle Soup Recipe
1 Cup Unsalted Butter
1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
4 Tbsp Usalted Butter
1 lb Turtle Meat Cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 Cup Onion, Finely Diced
1 Cup Celery, Finely Diced
1/4 Cup Green Onion, Finely Sliced
2 tsp Garlic, Minced
2 Fresh Bay Leaves
1 1/2 Cup Fresh Tomato, Diced
1 Qt Beef Stock
1 Pinch Cayenne
1 Pinch Ground Allspice
2 Tbsp Fresh Thyme Leaves
1 Tbsp Fresh Marjoram, Chopped
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
1/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
4 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
3 Tbsp Sherry
3 Hard Boiled Eggs, Whites diced, Yolks Riced
5 tsp Italian Pasley, Finely Chopped
Melt the 1 Cup of Butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk in the flour, cook to make a peanut butter colored Roux. Set aside. For more on making a Roux, click here.
In a large saucepan or dutch oven, melt the 4 Tbsp of Unalted Butter over medium-high heat, add the diced Turtle Meat and saute until nicely browned.
Lower the heat to medium, add both types of onions, the celery, and garlic. Season with salt and black pepper. Saute until the vegetables are tender.
Add the tomatoes, season with a little salt so they will break down, cook for 10 minutes.
Add the Beef Stock, Worcestershire, Cayenne, Allspice, and Bay Leaves. Bring to a boil, then down to a simmer. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming off any impurities that may rise to the surface.
Whisk in the Roux, simmer until thickened and smooth. Add the Thyme, and Marjoram, simmer for 15-20 minutes more.
Add the Lemon Juice, 3 tsp of the Parsley, and the riced Egg Yolk, heat through.
Serve garnished with Lemon Slices, Diced Egg Whites, and Parsley. Add the Sherry at the table, about 1-2 tsp per bowl.