Turtle soup is a great delicacy in Louisiana. The flavor of the turtle meat is both delicate and intense; there are supposedly seven distinct flavors of meat within the turtle. Commander's Palace Restaurant, in New Orleans' Garden District, is famous for its turtle soup -- it's a dark, rich, thick, stew-type dish, filling enough to be a meal in itself. More often, though, it's the first bookend of a great meal that's finished by a fantastic dessert. Arnaud's Restaurant, in the French Quarter, also has great turtle soup, and the recipe is quite different. Commander's is thicker, and Arnaud's is a little lighter, using a white veal stock instead of a dark beef stock.

Commander's Palace Turtle Soup au Sherry

Melt 8 ounces (2 sticks) butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until the roux is light brown. Set aside.

In a 5-quart saucepan, melt the remaining butter and add turtle meat. Cook over high heat until the meat is brown. Add celery, onions, garlic and seasonings, and cook until the vegetables are transparent.

Add tomato purée, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the roux and cook over low heat, stirring, until the soup is smooth and thickened. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon juice, eggs and parsley.

Remove from heat and serve. At the table, add 1 teaspoon sherry to each soup plate.

Arnaud's Turtle Soup au Sherry

Combine eight quarts of water and half the salt in each of two large pots and bring to a boil over high heat. Place the turtle meat in one, the veal in the other, and simmer both for 45 minutes. Remove both pots from heat, drain the meat, and chop both meats coarsely in a food processor. Keep warm until needed.

Place the veal stock, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the tomato pureé, vegetables, parsley and lemons, and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the two kinds of meat and the sherry. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the eggs, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Thicken by adding small amounts of the roux.

Add a final splash of sherry to each individual bowl when serving, if desired.

Serves six.

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Chuck Taggart (e-mail chuck)