(See adjacent page).
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter
2 1/2 pounds turtle meat (see Note), cut in medium dice (beef, or a combination of lean beef and veal stew meat may be substituted)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 medium onions, in medium dice
6 stalks celery, in medium dice
1 large head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
3 bell peppers, any color, in medium dice
1 tablespoon ground dried thyme
1 tablespoon ground dried oregano
4 bay leaves
2 quarts Veal Stock
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 bottle (750 ml) dry sherry
1 tablespoon hot sauce or to taste
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 large lemons, juiced
3 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
10 ounces fresh spinach, washed thoroughly, stems removed, coarsely chopped
6 medium eggs, hard-boiled and chopped into large pieces
Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large soup pot over medium to high heat. Brown the meat in the hot butter, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 18 to 20 minutes, or until liquid is almost evaporated. Add the onions, celery, garlic and peppers, stirring constantly, then add the thyme, oregano, and bay leaves, and sauté for 20 to 25 minutes, until the vegetables have caramelized. Add the stock, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, periodically skimming away any fat that comes to the top.
While the stock is simmering, make a roux in a separate pot: Melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a small saucepan and add the flour a little at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to burn the roux. After all the flour has been added, cook for about 3 minutes until the roux smells nutty, is pale in color, and has the consistency of wet sand. Set aside until the soup is ready.
Using a whisk, vigorously stir the roux into the soup a little at a time to prevent lumping. Simmer for about 25 minutes. Stir to prevent sticking on the bottom.
Add the sherry, bring to a boil, add the hot sauce and the Worcestershire, and simmer, skimming any fat or foam that comes to the top. Add the lemon juice and tomatoes, and return to a simmer. Add the spinach and the chopped egg, bring to a simmer, and adjust salt and pepper as needed. This soup freezes well.
Note: We use alligator snapping turtles, a farm-raised, fresh-water species available all year. It's illegal to use sea-raised turtle, so farm-raised is fine. Turtle meat usually comes in 2 1/2-pound portions, so this recipe is written to use that quantity. It freezes well and can be ordered by mail.