The feast

“This is plain, old pot-frying, not turtle soup like at those French Quarter tourist restaurants,” Dirk Matherne said wryly. “Of course, ours has turtles in it. I don’t know if those restaurants even have any turtle in their soup.

“If they do, they grind it so fine, you can’t find it. Everyone around here pot-fries everything.”

Dirk’s wife, Laurie Folse Matherne, shook her head and grinned. She was in the kitchen to do most of the heavy lifting cooking her husband’s catch.

The couple were hilarious in the kitchen. There was constant negotiation. Dirk wanted to add onions; Laurie said, no — when onions caramelize, they become sweet and the dish will be too sweet.

Un-phased and with a sneaky grin, Dirk grabbed the spatula several times during cooking.

“You stir too much,” she admonished, her brown eyes twinkling.

“I love to stir things,” he admitted.

Finally, near the end, after she added water, she glinted mischievously out of one eye and said, “You can stir it, Dirk.”

“Oh yeah,” he exclaimed as he jumps to it. “Can I use a bigger spoon?”

Laurie said marinating her meat after seasoning in the refrigerator is something she does with all wild game. Caramelizing brown sugar in cooking oil for use with white meats like chicken and turtle is something she learned from Dirk’s mother Bessie, who she said she “idolized.”

Pot-Fried Turtle

• Meat from 7 large mobelian turtles

• 1 tsp Adolph’s meat tenderizer

• ½ tsp salt

• Red pepper to taste

• Dash of black pepper

• 2 tbsp garlic powder

• 1/2 cup vegetable oil

• 1/4 cup sugar

• 1 capful of Kitchen Bouquet

• 2 heaping tbsp corn starch

Wash the turtle meat and cut into serving size pieces. Sprinkle with meat tenderizer, salt, red pepper, black pepper and garlic powder and mix by hand. Put in a gallon plastic zipper bag and set aside in refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When ready to cook the meat, add vegetable oil and sugar to a large open pan or pot. Cook over low to medium-low heat, stirring constantly. This is a delicate step, as the sugar and oil should not be heated to bubbling. If begins to bubble, remove the pot from the heat immediately and allow it to cool before returning to heat. If overheated, the sugar will burn “almost instantly.” The sugar will dissolve, clump, then re-dissolve. Any sugar sticking to the spoon or spatula should be scraped back into the oil. When the oil and sugar mixture is an even light brown color, add the turtle. Increase heat to medium and brown uncovered, stirring the pan occasionally. As the water cooks out and it begins to sizzle, add just enough water to keep it from sticking. Cook until the turtle is as brown as desired, adding water periodically as needed. Add Kitchen Bouquet for color and cook 10 more minutes. Add 8 cups of water, cover and cook at least 30 minutes or until the turtle is tender. As the meat starts to become tender, slightly crack the lid on the pot to allow for evaporation of some of the liquid. When the liquid is at 1/3 the starting level, stir the cornstarch into 1 cup of water and add it to the gravy. Simmer on medium until the gravy is the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper if needed. Serve with rice, or better yet, rice and white beans over which to drizzle the gravy.

About Jerald Horst 959 Articles
Jerald Horst is a retired Louisiana State University professor of fisheries. He is an active writer, book author and outdoorsman.

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