Monday, November 4, 2013

Sorrel Soup with Leeks and Potatoes

Sorrel is something to seek out and treasure. I was first exposed to it back in 1979 working at Fourth Street Grill in Berkeley. Chef Mark Miller had left Chez Panisse to open his own place. Mark heavily influenced my choice to pursue cooking as a first career. At Fourth Street Grill we cooked fresh local salmon over a mesquite charcoal fire and served it with buttery sorrel sauce. It was truly a revelation and an indelible food memory! 

Sorrel has been described as “sour grass” which may not excite you but it has a very unique flavor and pairs up deliciously with stewed leeks. You may have to scour farmers’ markets or your better produce stores to find it, but it is worth the effort! I was astounded how much I enjoyed this soup. 

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Ingredients                                                      makes 8 cups
1 lb leeks, diced and washed (about 4 cups)
3 slices bacon browned and crisp (4 if thin sliced)
1 lb. peeled red potatoes, set aside one or two unpeeled
½ large yellow onion, diced
1.5 T. unsalted butter
1.5 T. bacon fat (may substitute olive oil)
1 bay leaf
6 sprigs fresh thyme
4 C. sorrel leaves coarsely cut in 1-2 inch pieces
Note: may substitute beet greens, sauté first in olive oil
4 C. chicken stock
½ C. heavy cream (optional)
2-3 lemon wedges
Salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper to garnish
To Prepare

Remove most of the green tops of the leeks, cutting away all but two to three inches above the lower white portion of the leek. Dice and rinse well. Peel three fourths of the potatoes and cut them in ½ inch chunks. Dice the remaining unpeeled potatoes and boil separately in salted water until just done and cool. 

Add the butter and bacon fat (or olive oil) to a soup pot over medium high heat. Add the diced onion, drained leeks, bay leaf and thyme. Cover, stirring occasionally for about 5-8 minutes. Add the peeled potatoes and a healthy amount of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer another 10 minutes until the potatoes are done.

Remove from heat and puree about half the soup. I used a wand (preferred method), but you can use a blender or food processor. If you use a blender use CAUTION with heated soup!! Don’t fill the blender over half full. If the top of the canister has a removable rubber stopper, take it out to allow steam to escape. Or, let the soup cool before taking this step. As they say, “Don’t try this at home!” 

Return soup to medium heat. Add the sorrel (or sautéed beet greens.) You may also use the sorrel stems, cut into small (1/4 inch) pieces. Cook for 5 more minutes, tasting as you go. Correct for salt. Squeeze the lemon wedges and drop them into the soup. The lemon is essential, as it seems to really accentuate the sour grass character of the sorrel. Add the remaining diced, cooked potatoes to the soup and serve. 

The dark “army” or “jeep” green color of cooked sorrel may not be the most aesthetically pleasing, but it reminds me of my first car, which I owned while working at Fourth Street Grill, an old 510 Datsun that was exactly that color! 

The weather is turning cold and it’s the perfect time for sorrel soup. As an accompaniment I like to serve warm, crusty bread with lightly salted butter. 

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