Thursday, June 23, 2011

An Ode to Sorrel

Have you ever tasted something for the first time and thought, “Where have you been all my life!?” That was me with sorrel.

I wasn’t even familiar with this leafy green until last year when Beryl suggested we plant some in our garden. It tasted so bright and lemony, and I dreamt about turning it into creamy sorrel soup once harvest time rolled around. Well, that time came and went while we were on vacation and the plant bolted. So much for soup.

This year I was determined not to repeat history. I did my research and found that sorrel, which is hugely popular in French cuisine, is often served as a sauce for fish. So I picked our plant clean and melted a heaping bowl of leaves into a just-creamy-enough white wine shallot sauce. Paired with pan fried cod, this immediately shot to the top of the best-dishes-I’ve-ever-eaten list. 

While there is some difference of opinion regarding the origins of the word “sorrel” --some say it comes from a French word, others claim Germanic roots -- both origins mean “sour.” The plant contains oxalic acid (also found in rhubarb), which gives it that characteristic lemony, tart flavor. It can be served raw in salads or sandwiches, pureed into soups or pesto, or, in this case, made into a lovely sauce for fish.

My first experience with sorrel was nothing short of a revelation, and in an attempt to make up for lost time (and eat as much of it as possible this summer), I immediately ran out and bought more starts for the garden. Perhaps next year I'll plant an entire patch...

This could get out of hand. 

Fish with Sorrel Sauce 
I used cod but have heard that this sauce tastes magnificent with salmon. Adapted from The New York Times.

Serves 2

2-3 shallots, diced finely
1 tablespoon butter
Glass of dry white wine
1 - 1 1/2 cups vegetable or fish stock
1/2 cup cream
1 bunch sorrel

2 tablespoons high heat oil 
1 pound cod fillets (sole, perch, haddock or trout would also work)
Salt and pepper

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, sweat the shallots in butter until soft and translucent. Add a glass of white wine, increase the heat to high and reduce completely. Add the vegetable stock (if it's a subtle stock, use 1 1/2 cups; if it's strong, start with 1 cup) and reduce over high heat until 1/4 cup of liquid remains, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, strip the sorrel leaves from their stems. If the leaves are big, rip them into large pieces (there is no need for tiny pieces since the sorrel will wilt down tremendously). Wash and spin dry.

After the broth mixture has reduced, lower heat to low and stir in the cream. Add the sorrel and wilt down completely (it will look like a lot at first but won't take long to melt like spinach). Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

In the meantime, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper and place in the skillet. Cook until fish flakes easily, about 3 minutes per side.

Divide the sorrel sauce between two plates and top each with a fillet of pan fried fish. Roasted or steamed parsley potatoes make a nice accompaniment.


Angry Asian said...

i am a recent fan of sorrel, it's something i'd never heard of before until i tried it at the local farmer's market. my boyfriend said the tartness reminds him of apple pie. so far we've been eating it raw, in salads. i'd love to see what it's like cooked.

Cecily said...

Kate, I share your absolute passion for sorrel! It's incredibly addictive. This dish looks totally amazing!