Spicy double chocolate caramel cookies and … turtles
Let me start by saying thanks to April at Silverflux for helping me clean up my site! She’s awesome. You guys like the new look?
Now, let’s get down to business. I’ve been champing at the reindeer bit to do a Christmas post. You may remember that last year I made Christmas-tree cookies (with actual bits of tree) and also cooked up some Rudolph meat. That kind of seasonality demands follow-up. But I struggled with how to one-up myself, if that’s a thing. What could I make that was Christmas-y and weird? Should I serve up Frosty the Snowman? Although that would fit the seasonal bill, I’m not sure that it would leave my guests very satisfied. The exception might be a carrot nose, but purists would correct me and make it a button nose, which is not at all edible. I’m sure some of my friends would make the best of a bad meal by taking advantage of the corn-cob pipe.
But luckily, Stephanie at Kitchenfrolic.ca came along just at the right time looking for guest posts for her annual cookie advent calendar. Fun, and festive! I’ve really loved seeing each day’s cookie reveal, and mine finally had its turn today. Don’t worry, it’s not too strange. My kids even fought over the cookies, so you know they were dangerous in a good way. Hop on over to Stephanie’s blog and check out how it went down, here.
And then came festive attempt #2 that I was going to try on my own. I was at T&T recently (my multicultural with a capital M dangerous food store playground) on the hunt for something Christmas-y and different. I lingered by the live eels, and considered them, remembering that I think my buddies at Zeppolis include eels as an Italian Christmas delicacy. But I was fuzzy on details — I recall temporary eel lodgings in the bathtub, and my sister is about to stay… Might not result in the optimal version of a Christmas surprise.
And then I saw this guy
That’s his head, btw (and don’t worry, he came to me frozen). Here’s a better look at his nostril. You know, in case you were wondering what a soft-shell snapping turtle nostril looks like.
Still doesn’t look much like a nostril. Here are his toenails. I found his toenails super interesting. Dinosaur-like.
And then things started to get gross. You know, when your dinner’s toenails are the most appetizing part of what you’re preparing, that’s saying something.
The first job was to clean my poor friend, who was frozen whole. Imagine a whole fish being frozen, and then you have to find the meat for yourself. Well, this was the same way — except that a turtle is attached to its shell. And the shell, top and bottom, is attached to itself. And the descriptor “soft-shell” might just be an ironic term. The extraction process was not pretty. Please take a moment to thank me for not taking pictures.
My goal was to make turtle soup, a delicacy in many places throughout the U.S., including in New Orleans where you may remember I recently tried it. There, it tasted chewy, like seafood, and the broth was spiced with clove, drowning a few hard-boiled quail eggs. It was homey. Almost Christmas-y, you could say. I found this recipe that seemed similar. Mine wasn’t similar.
I finally broke into the turtle and cleared out whatever innards I could figure out. I popped whatever was left into my pot and covered it with water, throwing in a few bay leaves and peppercorns, as per the recipe. It was supposed to boil like that for two hours to make the broth, and then I was to extract the cooked meat and build up the broth with further ingredients. After 10 minutes, my turtle stunk. And my father-in-law was on his way over. Thank goodness he knows I’m usually a good cook. My husband started gagging. The smell was like I had boiled up a week-old lobster. I must truly be a food optimist, because I still thought, “Maybe it will taste better than it smells, I should persevere.” But when I took off the pot lid to see what was up, it smelled so bad that my husband said never to do that again, and that he would have to leave the house while I cleaned it up.
My poor turtle didn’t make it past that point in the recipe. C’est la vie. When you are an experimental cook, you often come out ahead, but you’re also bound to have some epic fails. I’ll have to whisper to the turtles in our bay at the cottage that they’re safe from me forever, and tell them that they can go back to threatening my toes instead of the other way around. I’ll leave the turtle soup to New Orleans and this guy.
Oh, and why did I decide that turtle soup might be Christmas-y? It wasn’t just the clove. It was this. Did everyone grow up on these commercials every December? Maybe this is why I craved chocolate and caramel for my cookies?
Anyway — at least I gave you one recipe to try this week. I meant to say fifteen, actually, if you should bake the whole advent calendar so far, which you should (plus I made you crave chocolate Turtles, which isn’t a terrible thing). Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! And thanks for hosting a fun idea, Stephanie!
Oh, and PS, I need your help! My annual “cousin night” of debauchery is coming up. It’s awesome to party with people who have to continue being your friends the next day because they’re related. This year I suggested we hold a cocktail contest. Don’t you wish you were my cousin? So please comment with your favourite cocktail, because I haven’t landed on mine. I think I might take pictures and break the whole “what happens at cousin night, stays at cousin night” rule, just for you.