Saturday, December 12, 2020

Authentic Bookbinder's Soup Recipe from Master Chef Marshall at Chicago's Drake Hotel.

The name "Bookbinder" comes from Samuel Bookbinder, a Jewish immigrant from the Netherlands who opened the "Old Original Bookbinder Restaurant" in 1893 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The original soup is a variety of turtle soup made with typical stew vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, celery, bell peppers, onions, leeks, mushrooms, and garlic. It is made with common snapping turtle meat. 

The soup spread to other places, such as the Drake Hotel in Chicago, where the turtle meat was replaced with red snapper. It's been said that red snapper was the substitute for snapping turtle meat because of the similar-sounding name. But it was actually chosen because of the similarity of red snapper's rich taste and texture to the snapping turtle meat. Its name became Bookbinder's Snapper Soup.
Bookbinder's Restaurant in Philadelphia closed its doors in March 2009.

Many had said that the Drake Hotel's Bookbinder soup was more delectable than that served at the famous Bookbinder's Restaurant in Philadelphia. But it was the same recipe. Master Chef Marshall Jr. of the Drake Hotel's Cape Cod Room and Camellia House Restaurants said:

"I tried unsuccessfully to wangle the recipe from the owner of Bookbinders. I got it, tho, by taking the chef out for a drink!" 

Bookbinder's soup was a staple at the Drake Hotel's Cape Cod Room, which closed for good on December 31, 2016Following is the recipe as provided by the Master Chef of the Drake Hotel:

Following are two sets of ingredients with respective preparations. 

The directions were written down verbatim. Makes 15 cups or about 8 average bowls.
This photo was taken at the Cape Cod Room
  • 1 cup celery
  • 1 cup carrots
  • 1/4 cup red peppers
  • 1/4 cup green peppers
  • 1 1/2 cups onions
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 quarts strong vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon chicken base
  • 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups dry Sherry
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon crushed black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh cilantro
  • 1 stalk rosemary
  • 4 drops caramel color
  • 3/4 cup flour & 3/4 cup OR 1 1/2 sticks of butter for a roux
  • Dice vegetables and saute in olive oil over moderate heat.
  • Add tomato puree, tomato paste, and liquids and simmer over moderate heat.
  • Add seasonings.
  • Create a roux with flour and butter.
  • Add caramel color, garlic, and salt.
  • Mix with the vegetables/broth and cook for 2 hours in a big stockpot.
  • Strain through a medium 1/6-inch China Cap or a medium strainer.
    China Cap
  • 1 1/2 cups diced white onion
  • 1 1/2 cups diced celery
  • 1 lb. Snapping Turtle meat or Red Snapper fillets
  • Steam or cook items separately.
  • Coarsely chopped snapper turtle meat, or flake up red snapper after it has been cooked and add to stock.
  • Adjust seasoning
Serve with a shot of fine dry Sherry per bowl or a cruet of Sherry on the side for cups of soup.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.


  1. Thanks for posting this. It’s one of my favorites and I miss the lovely Cape Cod room. Now I just have to source the turtle meat or red snapper. Yum! The power of soup!

    1. I miss the Cape Cod Room too! I first started going there in the 1950s with my parents. In the late 90s I had to travel to Chicago a lot, and always went to dinner one night… just me, two bowls of bookbinder soup, their rolls and an executive pour martini… and a good book!

    2. I’ve used chopped clams as a substitute for the snapper…very similar texture.

  2. I'm on it Neal. Cutting the recipe to 8, getting some amazing sourdough bread, and reflect on my favorite city. On another note I have something to ask you off line.How can I do that?


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