Classic Creole Dishes, on a Shoestring

No trip to New Orleans is complete without a meal at Commander's Palace.

It opened in 1880, and has been a longtime Big Easy institution, known for its Southern charm, awad-winning food, and famous alumni: Both Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse got their start there.

As part of "The Early Show on Saturday Morning"'s special commemoration of the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the owner of Commander's Palace, Ti Martin, accepted our "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge, agreeing to prepare some classic Creole dishes on a budget. And we gave him $60 to work with -- $20 more than our usual $40.

That meant Ti didn't become part of our "How Low Can You Go?" competition, in which the "Shoestring" chef whose ingredients cost the least will be invited back to whip up our year-end holiday feast.

Commander's cuisine reflects the best of Bayou Country, both Creole and American heritages, as well as dishes of Commander's own making. Seafood, meats, fruits and vegetables -- everything is as fresh as it possibly can be.

Special Coverage: Hurricane Katrina's Five-YearAnniversary

Turtle Soup
Louisiana White Shrimp
Caribbean Shrimp Salad
Sticky Pork Belly and Oysters
Bananas Foster
Sazerac Cocktail

"Early Show" Recipes Galore!


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. (Source: Food Lover's Companion)

Pork belly is the meat derived from the belly of a pig. In the United States, bacon is made most often from pork bellies.
This cut of meat is enormously popular in Chinese cuisine and Korean cuisine. In Chinese cuisine, it is usually diced, browned then slowly braised with skin on, or sometimes marinated and cooked as a whole slab. (Source: Wikipedia)


Turtle Soup

This dish is usually mentioned in the same sentence as Commander's Palace. We are famous for it, but it can easily be made at home when you want a hearty soup to warm your bones.

Makes 5 quarts; serves 24 as a first course or 12 as a main course

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter
2-1/2 pounds turtle meat, diced (beef or a combination of lean beef and veal stew meat may be substituted)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 medium onions, diced
6 celery stalks, diced
1 large head garlic, minced
3 bell peppers, diced
1 tablespoon ground dried thyme
1 tablespoon ground dried oregano
4 bay leaves
2 quarts veal stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 bottle dry sherry
1 tablespoon Tabasco or to taste
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 large lemons, juiced
3 cups peeled, seeded, and diced tomatoes
10 ounces fresh spinach, chopped coarse
6 medium eggs, hard-boiled and chopped

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add meat, salt, and pepper and cook for 18 minutes, until liquid is almost evaporated. Stir in the onions, celery, garlic, bell peppers, thyme, oregano, and bay leaves and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, until vegetables are caramelized. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming away any fat that comes to the surface.
Meanwhile prepare roux by melting remaining 8 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Gradually add flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, and cook for 3 minutes, until nutty and pale with the consistency of wet sand.
Vigorously whisk the roux into the soup a little at a time to prevent lumps. Simmer soup, for 25 minutes stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Add the sherry, Tabasco and Worcestershire and skim away any fat or foam that may rise to the surface while cooking. Lastly, add the lemon juice, tomatoes, spinach, and eggs, then bring back to a simmer. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Soup can be made up to 3 days ahead and frozen up to 1 month.

For more recipes, go to Page 2.