When I opened one of the first issues of Saveurs magazine (the French magazine, not SAVEUR), one of the features was about Classics from your Grand-Mère. It included a litany of recipes that someone growing up in France might recognize from their childhood. When I asked Jules what oseille was, he didn’t know the English translation and for a while I couldn’t find one. When I finally found the translation (“sorrel”), I didn’t even know what it was, and couldn’t find it at the store, so I just made the soup with watercress (which is a good substitution in this application, but it makes an entirely different soup).
For the uninitiated, sorrel is a popularly foraged plant that has a tangy and sharp flavor, which usually appears in the spring through the summer. Much of the sorrel I find at the farmer’s market now is cultivated instead of foraged, but if you’re lucky enough to live in Scandinavia, the northern Mediterranean coast of Europe, or certain parts of Central Asia, you may find it growing in the wild. Sorrel soup is the most common way to prepare it, but it can also be used in sauces (like the famous Salmon and Sorrel Troisgros). The simple soup preparation is below, and can be served as a starter, or a main course. I served this to Jules and he closed his eyes and smiled. Can’t get a better seal of approval than that one!
Soupe à l’oseille (Sorrel Soup)
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced (or 1 leek, white part only, chopped)
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups water
1 large bunch chard, stemmed and chopped
2 bunches sorrel, stemmed and chopped (about 2 dozen leaves)
1-2 cups milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg, optional
Dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream, optional
Heat the butter in a soup pot. Add onion and potato, and sauté over medium-high heat until lightly browned, about 5-8 minutes. Add water, chard and sorrel and several pinches of salt to the pot. After the greens have wilted, simmer for about 10 minutes.
After simmering, puree soup with an immersion blender or in a regular blender or food processor. Return pot with pureed soup to stove and over medium heat, stir in one cup of milk. Add more milk or water until the soup reaches a desired consistency (it is usually served rather thin). Season to taste with more salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg, if you desire. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream, if you wish.