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Brennan’s Turtle Soup


2 gallons chicken stock

5 pounds turtle meat, thoroughly rinsed (or substitute veal or alligator meat)

¾ cup canola oil

¾ cup all-purpose flour

1½ cups chopped onion

1½ cups chopped celery

¼ cup chopped garlic

1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes, chopped

3 bay leaves

3 sprigs thyme

1 sprig basil

1 teaspoon cumin

1½ teaspoons dry mustard

1½ teaspoons black pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon salt

2 cups sherry

¼ cup chopped parsley

Zest and juice of 2 lemons

½ pound fresh spinach

6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and finely chopped


Turtle soup at home? Thanks to the abundant supply of them from South Louisiana’s vast system of natural waterways, New Orleanians have been enjoying their spicy soupe à la tortue for centuries, and variations on the basic recipe are as numerous as the cooks who prepare the dish. Making the soup at home from scratch is best left to cooks capable of confronting the task of dressing a live snapping turtle. The rest of us can settle for buying fresh or frozen turtle meat either from specialty markets or by mail order from seafood dealers in and around New Orleans. (Adapted from Ralph Brennan's New Orleans Seafood Cookbook.)
  1. In large stockpot, bring chicken stock and turtle meat to a low simmer and cook turtle meat for 1 hour, making sure to skim away impurities that rise to surface. Strain turtle meat from stock, reserving stock and refrigerating meat to cool. Once meat is cool enough to handle, chop into ¼-inch pieces.
  2. In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat oil and whisk in flour. Whisk continually until roux is deep brown in color. Carefully add onion, celery, and garlic to roux, stirring with a wooden spoon until vegetables are cooked through. Whisk reserved chicken stock and tomatoes slowly into roux, being sure to avoid lumps.
  3. Tie bay leaves, thyme, and basil together with kitchen twine and add to soup. Add spices, sherry, parsley, lemon juice and zest, and spinach. Bring to a slow simmer and cook for about 45 minutes, skimming away oil and other impurities that rise to surface as it cooks. Ladle soup into bowls, top with egg, and garnish with more sherry if desired.
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