leave your inhibitions at the door
I love the Farmers’ market. Sure, it’s packed with slow-moving old people, even slower families with strollers, and hipsters who don’t know shit about cooking or gardening. But the good usually outweighs the bad – fresh produce, fair prices, local, mostly organic. Plus, since no one in the family likes going – uninterrupted me time.
For me, the biggest benefit is that it’s raised my cooking game to another level by challenging me to use produce that is in season and that I may not have ever cooked before. Anyone can go to Kroger, pick up a bag of spinach and make something any time of the year. But try coming up with ways to make a rutabaga taste good in August. That’s talent.
Every week I try to pick something unusual just for pure experimentation and this past weekend I picked up a couple bunches of sorrel. Until recently, the only sorrel I knew was the late actor Sorrell Booke:
You may remember him as the guy who played Boss Hogg in the old Dukes of Hazard series. I checked out his biography and it turns out he was more than a star of stage, screen, and television. Turns out he was a counterintelligence officer in the Korean war, spoke five languages, and even conducted the Buffalo Philharmonic. All that, yet he’ll forever be known as Boss Hogg. Ain’t that a bitch? You bust your ass through the war, get a degree from Columbia and then go on to get an MFA at Yale. All so you can get a bit role opposite John Schneider.
The first time I ate sorrel (the plant, not the yummy actor) was at a restaurant in Toronto of the same name. Boom Boom and I stumbled upon it last September because the one across the street that we Yelped looked crappy when we got there. At the time, Sorrel was only a couple of weeks old and was going through a soft opening so it was kind of a hidden gem. Even though it was pre-blog, I did write down what we had – Halibut w/ chili beurre blanc, grilled artichoke, wilted sorrel. Also jotted down “seared foie gras” and “boobies” – the former we probably ate, the latter probably had to do with Boom Boom. (Nice recovery, huh?) Overall, a great meal.
Sorrel is a spinach-like herb that that is extremely sour. It’s so strong when raw that it can only be used as an accent. When cooked, however, it loses that sourness and adds a nice flavor to whatever sauce or soup it’s used in. For this initial foray, I decided to use it both raw and cooked.
The recipes are very simple and turned out great. The chicken was tender and the pan sauce only had a slight hint of the tartness. The radish dish was a simple preparation with the radishes providing mostly texture, the rich butter flavor balancing the sour sorrel nicely. Inexplicably, the Pieholes have always loved radishes – probably due to their fart-generating properties. But they were all over the flavor of these. So both dishes were huge hits. Enjoy!
Sorrel with Chicken (ripped-off from Mark Bittman)
– 2 Tablespoons butter
– cut-up chicken
– salt and pepper
– large onion, sliced
– ½ pound sorrel, stems trimmed
1 – Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place chicken skin-side down, rotating occasionally to evenly brown. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn over, salt and pepper, and continue to cook for 10 minutes or so until completely browned. Transfer chicken to a plate.
2 – Add onions and cook (stirring occasionally) for about 5 minutes. Add ½ cup of water to deglaze pan for about a minute. Put the chicken back, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Uncover, add sorrel, stir, and re-cover.
3 – Cook for about 10 more minutes or until chicken is done . Serve hot, with rice or crusty bread.
Butter-Braised Radishes with Sorrel (purloined from Tony Maws)
– 1 cup water or vegetable stock (I used chicken)
– 1 Tablespoon butter
– 2 pounds of radishes, quartered
– salt and pepper
– ½ ounce (1 cup) sorrel leaves, sliced
1 – In a large skillet, bring stock and butter to a boil
2 – Add radishes and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender – about 15 minutes.
3 – Scatter the sorrel over the radishes and serve. That’s it.