Once upon a time, I bought Richard Olney’s “Simple French Food,” a classic text that’s required reading for many an aspiring chef. I remember reading it casually (I even cooked from it once: Squid & Leeks in Red Wine) and I remember making a mental note that if I ever found sorrel at the farmer’s market, I would buy some.
Olney writes of sorrel: “Too little known outside of France, sorrel’s refreshing acidity can enhance endless meat, fish, poultry, egg, and vegetable preparations used in small quantities as a flavoring herb, as the principal element in a soup or sauce, or as a vegetable garnish in itself. A graceful and welcome change from the sempiternal lemon.”
(Sempiternal? “Eternal and unchanging; everlasting.”)
And so it was that last Monday I was at the farmer’s market and I found this:
I scooped up a big bagful and brought it home and then Tweeted to the universe:
It had been a while since I’d read my Olney and even though I’d read Clotilde’s wonderful post “50 Things To Do With Fresh Sorrel” I somehow forgot that it existed.
Well the ideas came pouring in, but the one that intrigued me most came from Pim:
Clotilde also references the Troigros dish in her post; “Salmon with sorrel, a legendary dish originally invented by the Troisgros brothers in Roane in 1973.”
That sounded good to me and so that’s what I was going to make. And somehow, using Google Books, I was able to purloin an adapted recipe from none other than Daniel Boulud. (Isn’t it weird that you can search inside cookbooks on Google books?) Here’s the link.
This was a lovely thing to make. The sauce, which is as simple as cooking shallots and mushrooms with white wine, reducing, adding cream, cooking, straining and adding sorrel, has the heft and complexity of the most refined French sauce. As Olney says, the sorrel contributes an acidic note and just by itself the sauce is good enough to eat with a spoon.
As for the salmon, I cooked it pretty much as directed: in a hot pan, seasoned simply with salt, only I added a splash of canola oil just to help it along. The finished dinner, which took very little time, was a real triumph. We drank it with the wine that Boulud recommends in his recipe, Pouilly-Fuissé:
It’s a crisp white that plays really nicely off the fish and the sauce. Plus, it’s nice to drink an authentic French wine when you’re making an authentic French dinner. As for that dinner, here’s how you do it.
Salmon and Sorrel Troisgros
from Daniel Boulud’s Cafe Boulud Cookbook
By Daniel Boulud & Dorie Greenspan
For the sauce:
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 medium white mushrooms, trimmed but stems left on, wiped clean and finely chopped
1 large shallot, peeled, trimmed, finely chopped, rinsed and dried (I skipped the rinsing and drying and it was fine)
1 cup dry white wine (I used the Pouilly, because I couldn’t justify buying a 2nd bottle)
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 cup heavy cream
2 ounces sorrel, stemmed*, washed, dried and cut into very thin strands
(* By stemmed, I took this to mean just cut off the part of the stem that sticks out)
For the salmon:
2 center-cut salmon fillets (Boulud makes a big deal about the size and asks you to trim them down into scallops, but the only fillets of wild salmon I could find were already pretty thin so I didn’t bother cutting; if you want to follow Boulud’s advice, follow the link above)
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1. Start by making the sauce. In a pot, add the butter, melt it over medium heat, then add the mushrooms, shallot and white wine, seasoning gently with salt and pepper.
Bring it to a boil and cook until the liquid has almost completely evaporated (it takes a good 10 minutes). Pour in the cream, lower the heat (to the lowest possible setting) and cook it slowly for 15 minutes, until the cream thickens (it’ll coat a spoon.)
Strain it into a small saucepan, add the sorrel, bring just to a boil and then remove from the heat, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Right after you do that last step, cook the salmon. Heat one or two non-stick skillets with a small splash of vegetable or canola oil (any neutral oil) and season the salmon with the salt and pepper. Place the salmon into each skillet, skin-side down, and cook for 2 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fillet.
Flip the salmon over and cook on the other side until the fish is just cooked through (you may want to keep flipping back and forth, as I did, so it doesn’t get too much color on any one side. Also, since you’re not a restaurant chef, feel free to poke around inside of the fish to make sure it’s cooked all the way through; though, if you feel good about your salmon, you can serve it raw in the center, as Boulud recommends.)
3. To serve, ladle the sauce onto warmed plates…
…and top with the salmon.
Serve right away; according to Boulud, “there’s no time to lose!” Serve with the chilled Pouilly-Fuissé.