I first tasted sorrel in St. Petersburg, Russia, in a spring soup called green borscht—the herb is tangy and sour-fresh tasting, and the soup became one of my favorite things to eat while I was there. Back in the U.S., I don’t usually feel as much in a soup mood in spring, so when I came across sorrel at the farmers’ market, I decided sorrel sauce was the way to go. This was also a great chance to practice fish-cooking techniques, something I don’t do as often as I’d like. The thing about developing recipes is that it can get expensive! I like to buy organic/sustainably raised meat and fish, so testing recipes with them can be a slow process since I don’t usually want to spend $80 on salmon so I can test techniques all day (I mean, I totally do, but I also want to do things like pay rent, etc.!).
This recipe makes salmon with a crisp crust on top. You can either remove the skin before serving (but after cooking—the skin helps keep the salmon from getting dry) or serve with skin, but avoid eating the skin. If you’re feeling waste-not-want-not or just really like crispy salmon skin (why would you not, it’s so tasty!), you can save the skin and crisp it up in the pan to munch on. You can also just make crispy-skin salmon and serve the sauce with that. I’m still perfecting my personal recipe, but this one will point you in the right direction, and this article will fill you in on the science of cooking salmon and give you trouble-shooting tips.
Sorrel sauce is also good on potatoes, chicken, or any number of other things, so even if you’re making this recipe for one or two people instead of four, I’d suggest making the full sauce recipe and using it to top other things later. It will keep for two or three days in the refrigerator. I served the salmon with little marble potatoes, boiled and served hot with butter and flaky salt, and with extra sorrel sauce on the side (say that five times fast) to put on the salmon and potatoes, so there were no leftovers to speak of.
The Polish grocery store down the street from me sells sorrel preserved in a jar. When the weather is cold enough for me to want to eat soup again, I plan to experiment with using that to make green borscht—I’ll let you know how it goes.
Salmon with Sorrel Sauce
- 1 cup (packed) thinly sliced sorrel leaves, washed, dried, and stems and thick center ribs removed
- 1/4 cup (packed) thinly sliced spinach leaves, washed, dried, and stems and thick center ribs removed
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 Tbsp finely chopped shallot
- 1/2 cup water
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 Tbsp dry vermouth
- salt and black pepper
- 4 1-to-1 1/2-inch-thick salmon filets, skin on, about 6 oz. each, dried with a paper towel and very lightly salted
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil for high-heat cooking (I use avocado oil)
Make the sauce: In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat, add the shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften and become translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the sorrel and spinach leaves, stir until wilted.
Add the water, cream, and vermouth, increase heat to medium high. When sauce begins to bubble, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is reduced and thick, 10 to 20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. If you’re good at multitasking, get started with the salmon while the sauce is reducing; otherwise, reheat sauce on the stovetop when salmon is ready.
Make the salmon: Preheat the oven to 425º. On the stove top, heat a large oven-proof cast-iron or enameled cast-iron skillet over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the vegetable oil and heat for a minute more.
Place the salmon filets into the skillet, skin side up, cook for 2 minutes without disturbing. Transfer skillet to the oven and cook for 5 minutes more, check for desired doneness, and continue cooking for 1 to 3 more minutes if necessary. Do not overcook. Do not. With a spatula, remove salmon from the skillet quickly and carefully. Serve topped with the sorrel sauce.