Turtle Sauce Piquante
Turtle truly is a south Louisiana camp food.
I cannot remember my mama cooking turtle at home. It was always something
that the men in the family would cook at a camp supper. I've pretty
much only cooked it at camp also.
One of my fondest memories was the time Mr. Wilfred
Quebedeaux was cooking a pot of turtle sauce piquante at my Uncle Leland
Quebedeaux's camp. It's an unwritten rule that you can look in a
man's pot when he's cooking, but you better not stir it. So I went
over to the stove and looked in the pot, and the turtle legs looked like
they had warts. I then looked over at Mr. Wilfred and said, "Mr.
Wilfred, did you take the skin off the turtle legs." And Mr. Wilfred
replied, " Well no, where you think we get the flavor from!" That
was the only camp supper I ever went to where I only ate the rice and gravy
- even I have my limits on what I will eat!
Not just any turtle will do - so let me educate
you on selecting a turtle.
You don't want to cook just any turtle. The
most common turtles used are the snapping tutle, alligator snapping turtle
and soft-shell turtles. You don't want to use those hard-shelled
red-eared turtles (we called them streaker head turtles) you see in every
pond and lake - they don't have any meat on their bones! You certainly
don't want to use any terrestrial turtle or terrapin, in fact many are
endangered. I've mostly cooked snapping turtles because they
are the easiest to trap, and you can catch them in almost any bayou, pond
and lake. When I was a kid, my friends and I trapped snapping turtles
during the summer, and sold them to the fish market for 15 cents a pound.
We made pretty good money. The alligator snapping turtle (often
called loggerhead turtle in south Louisiana) gets well over 100 pounds,
are getting quite rare, and are tough, so I never use them. Probably
the best eating turtle is the soft-shell turtle, but they are harder to
catch. The turtles are pictured below. Don't be fooled by their
looks, they are quite good to eat.
Found everywhere, from lakes to farm ponds, but
usually not in fast running water. They are very common in bayous and ponds/lakes
that are overgrown with water weeds, even stagnant. They are easy
to catch in homemade wire funnel traps. More
Usually found in running water and rivers, or ponds and lakes with
fresh clean water. The soft-shell turtle is the best eating turtle.
Click on above image for larger view
They catch fish attracted to a worm-like appendage
on their tongue.
|Alligator Snapping Turtle
This is the granddaddy of all fresh water turtles. They easily
reach sizes of over 100 pounds, and are very old at that size. They
are becoming quite rare, due to being over trapped and loss of habitat.
In the picture to the left, Wayne Duplechain is shown with a 150 pound
alligator snapping turtle he and Randy Hooks (my next door neighbor growing
up) caught a few years ago.
Now that's one big turtle!!!
The turtle was donated to the Parks and Wildlife.
The alligator snapping turtle has an unusual way of eating, as show
in the image to the left. Their mouth is very dark/grey with a small,
pink, worm-shaped appendage on their tongue. They can wiggle it like
a worm. They lay on the bottom with their mouth open, wiggling their
"pseudo-worm", then snap closed on fish trying to eat their "pseudo-worm".
2-3 pounds turtle meat
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup green onion tops, chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
3-5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 can (14 oz) diced stewed tomatoes
1 can (10 oz) Rotel diced tomatoes & green
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
2 tbs roux (optional)
cajun seasoning mix (homemade,
Chachere's or Zatarain's)
Parboiling and Browning meat:
Parboil the turtle meat for 5 or 10 minutes. Pour off water.
If the meat is from young turtle, you can omit the parboiling. Pour
off the water.
Season the meat with cajun seasoning mix (homemade,
Chachere's or Zatarain's).
Add a small amount of grease or margarine to a heavy walled cast iron or
aluminum pot. Heat the pot. When hot, add the turtle meat
and brown over high heat until deep brown and until some of the browning
sticks to the bottom of the pot. Stir constantly.
After the meat is browned, remove from the pot.
Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and sauté
until wilted in the brownings.
Add the meat back to the mixture.
Add the Worcestershire sauce, stewed tomatoes, Rotel,
and tomato sauce. If needed, add water to cover the meat.
"Sauce piquante" means to cook in a tomato base.
I do not like a strong, distinctive "tomato saucy" taste, so sometimes
I like to add a couple of tablespoons of roux to enrich the tomato
base flavor. To make your own roux, add 2 tbs flour and 2 tbs oil
to a heavy pan. Place on medium heat, and stir constantly until a
chocolate brown roux is obtained. This takes awhile. Its hard
to make a small batch of roux, so I recommend you use store bought roux.
Add the garnish:
Cook with the pot covered under low heat so the mixture
simmers (lightly boils). Keep adding water so the meat stays barely
covered. You need to simmer long enough so the distinctive "tomato
saucy" taste is cooked down to a smooth tomato base flavor, and the meat
Taste and add more cajun seasoning (or salt and pepper)
When almost done, add the chopped green onion tops
Serve turtle meat and sauce piquante over cooked