Living in Florida opens up some great adventerous seafood eating opportunities, and we just happen to live very close to an awesome little fish market that specializes in local catches. Every visit there are different offerings from the waters of Florida. From the big prize fish like tuna and swordfish, to less known local river fish and fresh specialties like alligator and frog.
I've seen turtle at this particular market before, but only frozen, and I am hesitant to buy frozen seafood with the sea at my doorstep. However today they had fresh soft shell turtle, and I didn't hesitate to grab some!
Now before anyone freaks out and says, ZOMG cute turtle! Or ONOES they are protected! Trust me, these guys aren't any cuter than an alligator -and living right beside them, they have to hold their own- and are definitely not sweet little gentle slow pokey creatures, they can actually be quite aggressive. Combine that with their great abundance in just about every single pond and river you can find (which is a lot), they are perfectly legal to hunt in Florida, during their season of course.
Turtle isn't as wild and exotic as you might think. The flavor is quite nondescript, and quickly picks up the flavors of what it is being cooked with. Which is probably why the most popular recipe for turtle soup is very robust with ingredients like cayenne, tomato, lemon and Worcestershire Sauce.
For the Stock:
1 lb turtle (soft shell, or snapping turtle), bone in
4 cups water
1 onion, quartered
2 Tablespoons whole peppercorns
For the Soup
Meat separated from the stock, bones removed and cut into small pieces
1 quarter onion
2 Tablespoons tomato puree
1 half lemon
1 Tablespoon Cayenne
2 Tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
2 Tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tablespoon Flour
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Ground pepper and salt to taste
In a pot bring water to a boil and add cleaned turtle meat, 3/4 onion and peppercorns.
Let simmer slowly until the meat begins falling off the bones, approx 2 hours.
Strain Stock and return it to the pot. Remove turtle meat from the bones and cut into small pieces, then return the meat to the stock, keeping on a low simmer.
Dice remaining quarter onion and sautee in olive oil in a pan until translucent. Add flour and stir until thickened into a roux. Add a ladle of the turtle stock and stir until thickened. Stir in tomato paste. Pour contents of pan into the stock pot and stir until well blended. Add parsley, cilantro, cayenne, juice from the lemon, Worcestershire Sauce, pepper and salt to taste.
Serve and enjoy what was once a delicacy to Presidents and across Victorian England. Now its simply a local pleasure.