Turtle soup

(Recipe #1, pages 146 – 147)

Medium-size turtles are preferable to large ones, because the flesh of the latter is usually hard and tough. Hang the turtle by its hind feet on the morning of the preceding day; when the turtle stretches its head out of its shell, grasp it and cut it off with a sharp knife.

Let the turtle hang and bleed for 4 hours, then place it on a cutting board, cut the underside away from the shell all around and carefully remove the viscera, taking care not to damage the gall bladder, which everyone knows is attached to the liver, so that it can be removed whole.

Place the liver and heart, and any eggs found, in fresh water. Only at this point are the intestines cleaned and placed in water if they are to be used as sausage casings. The rectum has spines; scald it to clean it and remove the spines. After removing the entrails, cut away both the front feet with a sizable piece of meat; the hind feet have smaller pieces of meat.

Cut off the fins from the outside, scald the feet and sternum in boiling water, which will allow the skin to be pulled off. Cooking the turtle whole, as is sometimes done, is inadvisable, since it produces a lot of scum and a strong odor.

Wash the meat thoroughly, soak it for several hours in several changes of cold water, and hang it up to air overnight. At a convenient time the next day, place the meat and heart (but not the liver) on the stove in thin beef bouillon (which may be made the day before) along with the necessary salt. Remove the scum carefully. Add a small bunch of tarragon and thyme, finely chopped onions, and a bottle of white wine; simmer the meat slowly, well covered, until it is tender. Remove it from the broth, let it cool, and cut it into long neat pieces. Stew the liver in butter separately; when the soup is served, slice it and add it to the tureen.

Turtle soup may be served either clear or thickened; most prefer it thickened. Make a brown roux of flour and butter, stir in some of the broth, then add it all to the soup. Whether the soup is clear or thickened, boil the turtle meat ¼ hour in the soup, season it with ginger, cayenne pepper, cloves, and mace, all pulverized.

Add dumplings made from a bit of reserved turtle meat as follow: Chop the meat with a generous amount of beef marrow as fine as possible and then grind into a paste in a mortar; combine with white bread, eggs, salt, mace, grated lemon peel, and white pepper, and form into small dumplings. Veal dumplings may be substituted. Since it is easy for dumplings to overthicken a thickened soup, it is better to boil them in the soup before flour is added and kept hot with some simmering soup until they are put in the tureen.

If there are connoisseurs among the diners and it seems desirable to include turtle sausages in the soup, use the same forcemeat as for the dumplings but add a small glass of cognac, some finely chopped shallots sweated in a generous amount of beef marrow, a bit more white pepper, and grated liver. Fill the small cleaned intestines with the mixture, cook until done, and place diagonal slices in the tureen when the soup is served. Finally add any turtle eggs that were found to the soup along with a bottle of Madeira and pour it piping hot over the liver and dumplings.

A medium-size turtle needs to boil 1½–2 hours, an old turtle 3–3½ hours.

Translated by David Green.


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