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Cooter (Turtle) Stew

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

2 to 3 pounds cooter (substitute dark-meat chicken,
    catfish, veal, or all three)
2 quarts water
4 tablespoons cooking oil
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 large onions, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
10 peeled, seeded tomatoes or 2 large cans tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 cup green spring onion tops
1 pinch each paprika and cayenne
4 bay leaves
1 1/4 cups good sherry (not cooking sherry)
1 tablespoon molasses or brown sugar
6 to 8 hardboiled eggs, chopped
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
Seasoned salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup crumbled bacon

Cover meat with water and parboil on medium heat for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool and then trim to small chunks. Skim fat from broth and set aside.

Heat oil to just short of smoking. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 15-20 minutes to make a dark roux. Add big onions, garlic, tomatoes and tomato paste. Add 4 cups of reserved broth and meat and cook 30 minutes on medium-high. Add celery, spring onions, seasonings, bay leaves, sherry and molasses or brown sugar and cook 30 minutes. Add water to thin stew, if needed.

Add chopped eggs and cook 11/2 hours. Add potatoes and cook 20 to 30 minutes longer, until potatoes are tender. Taste and add seasoned salt and pepper. Sprinkle bacon over top. Remove bay leaves.

Serve in large bowls with a salad on the side and hot bread, preferably corn bread made in a black iron skillet.

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