The calendar is no help this year; as a gardener and cook, I need to look outside to what’s actually happening. And my herb patch is showing signs of life.
The first bits of green in my garden are hardy perennials: sage, mint, and sorrel. Just when we’re getting tired of hearty winter flavors, and are wanting something lighter, greener, there are bits just ready to be picked and used. Hooray for spring!
Sorrel has a bit of a sour tang, giving it a bright and intensely green flavor. It’s often paired with cream or yogurt, as in this quick sorrel sauce. It can be used as an herb, to lend a tart kick to cooked greens, raw salads, stir-fries, or egg dishes.
If you have an excess of sorrel, cook the leaves in a bit of butter until they wilt and fall apart. Freeze this goop in small quantities – ice cube trays are great – to have convenient portions to add to soups and stews.
A simple sorrel sauce with salmon made history in the cooking world in the early 1970s, when the Troigros brothers served their saumon a l’oseille with the fish cooked dry, placed on TOP of a pool of sauce (gasp! So barbaric!). Their sauce was a multilayered construction, beginning with finely minced shallots and mushrooms, sweated carefully in butter, with a reduction of wine, reducing it almost completely, and finishing with a long slow simmer with cream. It was one of the dishes that launched La Nouvelle Cuisine and is still served today, a sauce with no roux, no flour; a dish where the fresh ingredients are the focus.
You don’t have to be a French chef to make something good! I’m here to tell you that you can make a quick sorrel sauce that is perfectly wonderful with salmon or nearly any other fish – but also excellent with boiled or baked potatoes, as a filling for an omelet, over poached eggs on toast, or as an addition to a quiche with, say, chard and cheese. Make this sauce! It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s delicious.
Quick and Easy Sorrel Sauce
I’m going to be casual about measurements here. Don’t worry about being exact! This will make about 4 servings.
- butter, about 1-2 Tbsp, or about the size of a walnut
- 1 shallot, minced, or use 2 green onions, green and white part, also minced
- 1 bunch sorrel, 12-15 leaves or so
- about 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 c heavy cream
Prep the vegetables. Peel the shallot and mince it fine, or if you’re using green onions, wash and trim them, then mince the white part and some of the green, as well. You want very small pieces. For the sorrel, remove the stems and any tough ribs. Stack the leaves on top of each other, and roll them up from side-to-side, like a fat cigar, then slice them crosswise in thin strips.
Heat a pan (I like to use a skillet for this, it goes faster), and when it’s hot, put in the knob of butter to melt. Add in the minced shallots or green onion, and sweat them – that is, cook them without letting them get brown – until they are soft. Now add in the strips of sorrel, and cook them until they wilt – it will seem like the sorrel melts! Add the wine, and let it bubble and cook, until the liquid is reduced to about half its volume. Now add the cream, lower the heat (don’t let it boil, you don’t want bubbles) and cook it until the sauce will coat the back of a spoon.
That’s it! This sauce is way, way good. It takes longer to describe how to make it than the sauce takes to cook. Leftover sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, for a few days. Do NOT let it go to waste!