Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Snapper Soup Story, and a recipe that isn't.

Dad liked soup, er, actually he LOVED soup. My Mom had a good, fairly standard repertoire of recipes which she used and often embellished.  She also had a wicked collection of canned soups on the shelf. Mostly we ate canned soup. Soup at dinner was a good way cheer up Daddy, especially if he’d had a rough day before his long commute home. Generally, there’d be soup on the table a lot.

Since I grew up in the era of children who were seen, but not heard, my opinions on just what soup appeared on the family table were not consulted. Back then, I only liked two soups. Both by Campbell’s. Bean with bacon and chicken noodle. Somehow, I managed to grow up without being damaged for life by having to eat what was put on the table in front of me.  I actually grew up to be a soup lover. 

One soup, that my father adored, as does my husband, is Snapper Soup. And it’s probably the only one I will refuse to eat. Snapper soup is pretty much a middle East Coast tradition, especially in the Philadelphia area. I never see it on restaurant menus anywhere else. In case you aren’t up on this, it’s snapping turtle soup. My opinion is that people only eat it because it’s served with a cruet of dry sherry along side to spike it up with as you eat.

Many years ago, since it was so beloved by my dad, I decided to make some from scratch. The fish market at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia obligingly got me a turtle which I thought would be fully prepped. The package was heavy, and had a slight…odor. I carried the thing home from work on a packed Friday night commuter train and gave over most of my weekend to the production of snapper soup. When I opened the slightly smelly package, to my dismay, while the shell and head had been removed, it was only partly eviscerated, and the feet still had toenails. I shouldered through and cut them off and cleaned out the rest of the guts. Glad I wasn’t working on the municipal garbage truck that week.

We ended up with gallons of a soup that I still think is gross, but all the snapper soup eaters in the family raved about it. I will never, ever make that again. Ever. Just the smell makes me want to retch.

Luckily, there are a lot of soups that I do make, and everyone has come to expect that there will be some sort waiting in the fridge. Makes me feel like I should be a Seinfeld character…maybe the Soup Lady? Even when I’m feeling totally lazy or short on time, there’s always one I fall back on, because there is almost no work involved at all, and it doesn’t come out of a can. Sorry, Mom.

This wonderful, easy soup is very loosely based on a soup popular with the dieting crowd, and there are variations on it galore. You can mess with this to your heart’s content. Use all fresh vegetables, if you want, change up the stock, use a little Marmite instead of the mushroom base, whatever you want or have in the fridge. A handful of quick cooking greens like spinach, escarole or chard is always welcome, too. This version isn’t diety, although it is low in calories, and you’ll get in a good 2-3 serving of vegetables in a bowlful. Nice with a grilled cheese sandwich..

Easy, Lazy Vegetable Soup

1 T olive oil
1 cup chopped onion (can be the frozen stuff)
1 teaspoon minced garlic (from a jar or fresh)
1 bag of shredded cabbage coleslaw mix
1 bag of frozen mixed soup vegetables
1 bag frozen sliced zucchini
2 teas Mushroom Soup Base (or 1 packet of Onion Soup Mix)
1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes, including juice
1 quart of chicken stock
2 T Italian Seasoning
1 T Worcestershire
Water, plus extra stock or tomato juice if needed
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a big soup pot (at least 6 quarts) and add the onion. Cook, stirring for a few minutes until it begins to soften, then add the garlic and stir for another minute until you can just smell it. Add everything else through the Worcestershire and mix well. Add enough water to barely cover all the ingredients. Bring it all to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the hardest vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add water, stock or tomato juice if you like more broth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

1 comment:

  1. Turtle soup with sherry is quite common in New Orleans. I am not a fan, either, but my high school honey thinks it is a gift from above.