One of these days, Mario is going to get so fed up with Bowser’s constant kidnappings he’ll kill that crazy turtle, grind his bones to make his bread and boil his flesh to make his stew. The plumber is out of other options. It’s either go full Grimm’s Fairy Tales on Bowser or admit that just maybe Princess Peach isn’t really that into him.
Warm up that chilly feeling creeping towards your heart by practicing with a couple bowls of Mock Koopa Troopa Soup before the battle where you’ll make the real thing.
Mock Koopa Troopa Soup
Turtle Soup may sound like something besieged peasants would resort to after they’d run out of rats and before they started boiling leather boots, but the truth is much weirder.
In the 17th century, Chinese trade introduced the British to a pair of delicacies they couldn’t get enough of. One was tea. The other was green turtle soup. Tea was cheap, but proper soup turtles were insanely expensive. Since most people didn’t really know what Chinese turtles tasted like, British cooks decided to substitute a boiled calf’s head, brains and all, for the turtle meat. When in doubt, 17th century chefs always choose the grossest option.
These days, it’s actually easier to get ahold of turtle meat than a whole calf head, which has led to the creation of Mock Mock Turtle Soup. When they hear that name, the turtles probably think we’re laughing at them, but really, it’s just an uncomfortable chuckle of relief at that there are no animal heads or shells in the ingredients. Don’t tell Bowser.
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp butter
- ¾ cup flour
- 6 cups full fat beef broth
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon marjoram
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1 ½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 2 carrots, cut into rounds
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 1 pound lean beef roast (such as eye of round), cubed
- 1 pound pork roast (such as Boston butt), cubed
- 8 hard boiled eggs
To achieve the rich, silky texture of either turtle meat or boiled calves heads, we’re going to make a simple roux. I’ve been assured by people who’ve tried both that this isn’t remotely close to the unique texture of exotic animal bits, but it’s cheap, easy, and won’t get you reported to the FBI for possible cult activity, unlike asking a butcher for a baby animal’s head with the brains still inside.
Put your stockpot over a low heat and let it gradually melt the butter. If you rush this, you’ll end up with a play-dough like mess. Slowly whisk in the flour ¼ cup at a time, making sure it’s fully blended before adding the next bit. When the flour is all gone, keep whisking the mix until it magically transforms from pasty white stuff into a rich mahogany brown.
Slowly add the broth, ½ cup at a time, whisking all the while. If you don’t want your roux to end up all lumpy, you have to beat it like a boss level.
Once you’re out of broth, add the red wine. Whisk it a little more for good measure, just to make sure there aren’t any lumps. Once you’re satisfied that it’s smooth, dump in the bay leaf, marjoram, thyme, and can of tomatoes. Those tomatoes look awfully lonely. Add the carrots to keep them company. Put a lid on the pot and let it simmer on low while you brown the meat.
Put a frying pan on another burner and melt 1 tbsp of butter over medium-high heat. Brown as much of your cubed beef and pork as will comfortably fit in the pan. Don’t overcrowd it or else you’ll end up boiling the meat in its own juices instead of achieving golden brown perfection. Keep adding butter and meat until it’s all browned.
After all that work, unceremoniously dump the browned protein cubes into the soup. Give it a good stir, then put the lid on.
Now add your diced onions to the same skillet and gently cook them for 4-5 minutes, or until the middles are translucent and the edges begin to brown. It’s worth the time to do this rather than just drop raw onions into your soup because this process really brings out the sugars and creates a richer, mellower onion experience.
Throw the onions into the soup pot along with everything else and give it yet another good stir so all the new ingredients are properly introduced.
Put the lid back on your pot and let it simmer for an hour. While the heat works its magic, it’s time to make your cornbread.
(If you already have cornbread sitting around, serve each person one heaping bowl of stew with a peeled hard boiled egg tucked in one corner, accompanied by a Power Star or two of cornbread.)
Power Star Cornbread
You can do this two ways.
THE EASY WAY
Get two boxes of Jiffy Cornbread Mix and follow the box instructions. Line your pan with parchment paper before baking. That’ll let you easily lift the cornbread out of the pan. Once you do, attack it with a star shaped cookie cutter. If you’re feeling fancy, use a little glossy black icing to paint on a pair of eyes so it can watch you eat.
THE LAZY SUNDAY WAY
If you follow this blog, you know I love any excuse to make bread from scratch. In fact, I have a Geek Breads cookbook coming out later in 2015, because in this gluten-free age, I rebelliously refuse to give up my love of carbs. This sweet, easy cornbread doesn’t require a cast iron skillet or stone ground corn or anything cornbread purists adore. Instead, it relies on the same dirty secret as every boxed cornbread mix you love – wheat flour and lots of sugar.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- ¼ cup white sugar
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 6 tbsp melted butter + 2 tbsp cold butter
- 2 tbsp honey
- black gel icing pen (optional)
Preheat your oven to 425F.
Since you want to cut this into stars, line a 13 x 9 cake pan with parchment paper. The batter will seem pretty thin when you pour it in, but that’s okay. You’re essentially baking a cake that’s thin enough you can cut it with an ordinary star shaped cookie cutter.
In one bowl, whisk together your flour, cornmeal, white sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. When it’s fully transformed from separate ingredients into one undefinable mass, set it aside and grab another bowl.
In bowl #2, mix your eggs, milk, and 6 tbsp melted butter until you achieve a soupy mess.
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and beat them until you have a nice batter.
Pour the batter into your parchment paper lined rectangular cake pan. You may need to use a spatula (or your fingers) to smooth the thin layer of batter across the whole surface.
Bake it at 425 F for 18-22 minutes, or until the top is a dark golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
As soon as you take it out of the oven, drizzle the honey on top. Fee free to squeeze it straight from the head of a bear rather than measuring. Just make sure you get some random lines of it on as much surface area as possible.
When you’re done with your edible Jackson Pollock impression, grab those last two tbsp of butter with your fingers and gently rub it all over the surface of the crust. The butter will melt right into the cornbread while also spreading the honey around for extra tastiness.
Once you’re out of butter, leave the cornbread alone for at least 15 minutes, but preferably until fully cooled.
Grab the edges of the parchment paper and carefully lift the whole mass out of the pan. Lay it on a clean counter and get ready for the fun part.
Carefully attack it with a star shaped cookie cutter. Honestly, only ⅔ of my stars come out fully intact, so be patient. Once you’ve created as many stars as you can from the loaf, use a black gel icing pen to paint on two eyes.
Before anyone else can get to it, eat your unruly cornbread scraps. When all the evidence is gone, serve to your guests alongside a heaping bowl of Mock Koopa Troopa Soup.