French Food: Michelin 3-Star Salmon & Sorrel

I’ve always been a little fascinated with Michelin Star restaurants if only because obtaining even one star is so difficult to earn; imagine getting three? 

After watching the four-part series Chef’s Table France I decided to re-create (similar to the girl in the movie who copied Julia Child’s recipes and gained a large following in doing so) except I’m not THAT determined…a 3 star Michelin inspired dish!  These stars were well earned.

my plate

my plate

This recipe comes to us courtesy of Pierre Troisgros, one of only three French chefs whose restaurant has received three stars in the Michelin Guide for more than thirty consecutive years.

The celebrated Troisgros brothers (with the restaurant by the same name) created thousands of dishes for their Michelin-three-star restaurant in Roanne, France, but the plated Salmon and Sorrel Sauce, became a touchstone in French culture. It, more than any dish created by any other chef, marked the passage from the classic cooking of Escoffier to ‘la nouvelle cuisine’.  Today it might be difficult to imagine all the hoopla surrounding this somewhat simple looking dish. The components of the dish were not the newsmakers – they’d been used singularly and in combination for years by chefs in France.

 It was the way in which the salmon was cooked and the manner in which the plate was arranged that rocked the culinary establishment. In the old order of things, the salmon would have been poached and placed on a warm plate, and the sauce would have been spooned over it. In the Troisgros instant classic, the salmon was flash-cooked in a pan, a radically new way to cook fish, and it was the sauce that was put on the plate – the salmon topped it. It may not sound like much now, but then, it changed the way food was experienced.

 But any way you look at it, it’s still simply divine from plate to palate.

Pierre’s Salmon with Sorrel

INGREDIENTS  (for four)

  • 2 pounds salmon (equal thickness, no bones or skin and fairly thin)
  • 2 cups Pierre’s Fish Stock (recipe below) or *bought fish stock
  • 2 medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine, preferably Sancerre
  • 3 tablespoons dry vermouth
  • 1 1/4 cups creme fraiche
  • 4 ounces *sorrel leaves (about 1 quart tightly packed), washed, stemmed, and large leaves torn into two or three pieces
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. The original recipe calls for boning and dividing fillets from the thickest section of the fish into 6 ounce thinly cut pieces. Then oiling two pieces of parchment paper with peanut oil by laying one piece of parchment on a flat surface. Place fish on parchment.  Top with second piece of parchment.  Then with a wooden mallet or the side of a cleaver, gently flatten so each fillet is of equal thickness.  However
  1. That’s great but unless you’re a fisherman I advise going to your local fish market and asking someone to cut wild-caught salmon into equal size portions and remove the skin.  That is what I did since I live in an urban area.
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine fish stock and shallots. Bring to a boil, and cook until reduced to a glaze, 10 to 15 minutes. Add wine and vermouth, and continue to cook until bright and syrupy, about 3 minutes. Add creme fraiche, and boil until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Original recipe says to pass through a fine mesh sieve into a clean pan. I left it as is since the shallots boiled down and it was flavourful & tasted exquisite.
  1. Add sorrel, and cook for 25 seconds. Remove from heat. Add butter a little at a time, swirling or stirring with a wooden spoon until completely incorporated (be sure not to break up sorrel leaves). Season with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season salmon on one side (the less presentable side) with salt and pepper. Place in pan, seasoned side up. Cook 25 seconds, turn, and cook 15 seconds more (or a little more if need be). The salmon must be slightly undercooked to preserve its tenderness (it will continue to cook in the finished sauce). Definitely do not over cook!
  1. Distribute sauce among four (or two) large plates. Place salmon, seasoned side down, on top of sauce on plates. Season with fleur de sel. Serve immediately.

    Plat pour deux

    Plat pour deux

*Sorrel is a dark green, or variegated perennial herb with a slight sour flavour which comes from a high oxalic acid content. Sorrel is used in cream soups as well as an accompaniment to meats and vegetables. A French traditional version sorrel sauce is pureed and served over eggs or fish. You can usually get it at Farmers Markets but it sells out quickly.

Substitute for SorrelIMG_0759

Spinach with some lemon juice squeezed over top for tartness

Pierre’s Fish Stock

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds heads and bones from any fresh, white-fleshed, non oily fish
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • Bouquet garni (sprigs of thyme and parsley and a bay leaf, tied together)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Rinse the fish bones well in several changes of cold water. Place them in a medium stockpot. Cook, covered, over low heat, until their juices are released, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid sticking.
  2. Add enough cold water to cover, and the bouquet garni. Bring slowly to a boil, skimming surface until no trace of scum remains. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 25 minutes.
  3. Strain through a fine mesh sieve lined with damp cheesecloth. Cool. Store in an airtight container, refrigerated, up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
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I used this one & added water

I used this one

I used this one

Bon Appétit

Source: adapted from marthastewart.com (the original recipe was published here)

Photos: d. king

Perfect sides would be  lightly sautéed chanterelle mushrooms and rice, couscous or quinoa to soak up the fabulous sauce.  Really; it was FABULOUS.

Inspired by this recipe, the following night I cooked dover sole stuffed with dungeness crab claw meat (green onion, pepper, lemon) & a bechamel sauce over top. Sooo good!

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