Turtle soup is considered one of the great classical Creole dishes of yore in New Orleans. Most Louisianan’s who try it today wonder what all the fuss is about. If they find a piece of turtle in it, it’s seldom larger than a match head and the soup tastes more of sherry wine than turtle.
Country folks cook turtle differently. They put turtle meat in their pots — lots of it and they put the wine in the cook instead of the pot. Turtle is cooked lots of ways: it’s smothered; it’s pot fried; it’s stewed; and probably best of all they make sauce piquant with it.
Turtle sauce piquants are especially favored in Des Allemands, Mark and Nooch’s hometown. The recipes below are from two of the town’s late, old time turtle experts.
Loupe’s Turtle Sauce Piquant
This is the late (1928-2008) Delores Loupe’s recipe. Her husband of 62 years, Clarence Loupe, Sr. (1923-2009) was an almost legendary commercial fisherman, fur trapper and alligator hunter. The couple raised 12 children on the banks of Bayou Des Allemands, including seven sons, who all, at one time or another, were commercial fishermen. Clarence was known far and wide as a turtle man, and he always had live turtles in holding cars in the bayou.
- 3 lb. turtle meat
- 3 tbsp. flour
- 3 tbsp. cooking oil
- 4 onions, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped green onion tops
- 3 sprigs parsley, chopped
- 1 15-oz. can whole tomatoes
- 1 8-oz. can of tomato sauce
- 1 6-oz. can of tomato paste
- 1 7-oz. can of sliced mushrooms
- 2 dashes hot sauce
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and cayenne pepper
Boil the turtle meat in unseasoned water for 30 minutes to tenderize it. Drain the meat and reserve the turtle water. Lightly brown it in oil and set it aside. Make a roux with the cooking oil and flour in a heavy pot, preferably cast iron. After the roux is brown, add celery, bell pepper, green onion tops and parsley. Cook until vegetables are soft. Add the remaining ingredients except for the turtle meat and cook 10 minutes stirring constantly until ingredients are blended. Add the turtle meat. Cook until turtle is tender. If more water is needed during cooking to keep the sauce from getting too thick, add turtle water. Serve over rice. Serves 6.
T-Nom’s Turtle Sauce Piquant
This sauce piquant recipe is unique to Des Allemands, where many sauce piquants, no matter what the main ingredient is, are made with V-8 Juice and stuffed green olives. Melvin Vanacor, Sr, (1934-2003) was always called by his nickname “T-Nom,” which means “little man” in Cajun French. He was an unforgettable character. When he wasn’t in his fishing boat, he always seemed to have a beer in one hand, a Kool cigarette in the other and a huge grin on his face. And he was almost always barefoot. In his boat, he wore white books, but once on land, he kicked them off, even when it was cold. T-Nom was a professional catfisherman, but every spring, when loggerhead turtles started stirring, his thoughts turned to turtles. This recipe is T-Nom’s, although his wife Mary Ann is an excellent cook as well.
- 10 lb. turtle meat
- Cooking oil
- 2 14-oz. packages of frozen chef’s seasonings
- 2 7-oz. cans of sliced mushrooms
- 1 7-oz. jar of stuffed green olives, drained and chopped
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 46-oz. can of V-8 Juice
- 1/2 6-oz. bottle Louisiana hot sauce
- Salt and cayenne pepper.
Boil the turtle meat in unseasoned water until the meat falls off the bone, about 2 hours. Drain and set aside. Pour enough cooking oil in a large pot to cover the bottom. Add the chef’s seasonings, mushrooms, olives and garlic powder. Cook until the seasonings are soft, about 20 minutes. Add the V-8 Juice, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add the turtle meat, cover and cook for 1 more hour. Add hot sauce. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Serve over rice with garlic bread. Serves 15.