Escalope of Salmon with Herb-dressed Sorrel

Twenty years ago the Troisgros brothers introduced this dish to the international restaurant-going cognoscenti by serving it very publicly as part of a memorable feast (which also included a truffled soup en croûte by Bocuse) to President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. It was their reworking of a Loire speciality which used whatever river fish were to hand in combination with creamed sorrel.

The original recipe and innumerable subsequent derivatives all cook the sorrel in a way that renders it into something horrid like a cow-pat. Having first made a strongly flavoured butter and herb sauce as part of the Mise en Place I then cook the salmon on its own. Finely shredded sorrel is dressed with the warm sauce at absolutely the last moment and the salmon is then presented on a mound of this lemony fresh-tasting salad.

Ingredients

  • 225g/8 oz unsalted butter (yes - a whole half pound)
  • 1 shallot
  • bunch of dill
  • bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 45 tarragon leaves
  • bunch of chives
  • 450g/1 lb sorrel (this is a lot -about a carrier bag full)
  • 1 wild salmon fillet weighing about 450g/1 lb
  • about 55g/2 oz flour
  • 2 glasses (300ml/½pt) of dry white wine, or 1 glass (150ml/¼pt) of Noilly Prat
  • 150 ml/¼pt double cream
  • salt and pepper

Utensils

  • large (2.25 litre / 2qt) non-aluminium saucepan for the sorrel
  • liquidizer (or food processor as inferior substitute
  • large non-stick frying pan for the salmon
  • large bowl

Method

Mise en Place

Chill the butter until hard, then cut it into 5mm / ¼in, cubes • Peel and coarsely chop the shallot • Remove and discard large stalks from the herbs and chop them all coarsely • Destalk the sorrel leaves. Place 5 or 6 leaves on top of each other and roll them into a cigar shape (imagine you are in Havana and looking round for a suitable thigh). Cut these across into fine strips • Cut the salmon fillet into 4 escalopes through the skin and at an angle of 30 degrees, starting towards the tail end • Sprinkle the flour on a plate, season lightly and mix in to make a seasoned flour.

Cooking

First make the sauce (it can be made in advance): put the wine or Noilly Prat and the chopped shallot in a large non-aluminium saucepan. Season generously with salt and pepper. Put over a high heat and boil rapidly until the wine has almost completely evaporated (as for Beurre Blanc).

Add the cream off the heat and return to a moderate heat Stir, then simmer until it becomes syrupy. The reduction does not need undivided attention, but it would be wise not to leave the kitchen. (You can prepare the salmon while the sauce is reducing.)

Pack your liquidizer or food processor with all the herbs and pour in the hot reduced sauce. Put on the lid, cover with a drying-up cloth and liquidize until you have a smooth green purée. Set aside to cool. This whole process of making the sauce will take 20–30 minutes.

Return the sauce to the rinsed-out pan and simmer. Do not boil or overcook or you will lose the beautiful green colour. Off the heat, swirl in the small pieces of butter, 4 or 5 at a time, gently rotating the pan to melt them in. You can also do this with a small hand whisk or a wooden spoon. Set in a warm place or over the lowest heat your hob can achieve.

Put 2 of the salmon escalopes in the seasoned flour and turn to coat them evenly. Shake off any excess. (The flour amalgamates with the fat from the fish during cooking to form a thin savoury crust.)

Put the frying pan over a high heat and add a tiny amount of sunflower oil. Sauté the escalopes, skin side down, for 2 minutes. Turn them carefully and give them 1 minute on the other side. (If using the thicker cuts, double the cooking times.) Transfer the cooked escalopes to a warmed plate.

Quickly coat and cook the other two escalopes in the same way. (If you are feeling confident, you may like to cook all 4 at once, either in one large pan or in two pans side by side. Alternatively, use a large and hot grill if you have one, leaving out the flour but following the same cooking times.)

Transfer the sauce to a large bowl and drop the sorrel into it. Toss swiftly. If you have the temperature right the sauce will coat the sorrel leaves completely, leaving no free sauce in the pan. Getting the balance of sorrel to sauce is very important. Essentially you want about 2 tablespoons of sauce (including butter) to a large handful of sorrel per person.

Serving

The sorrel will start to discolour and collapse immediately. Rush for your 4 warm plates and mound the dressed sorrel on them. Place the escalopes on top of each mound and serve at once.

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