Wild salmon from the West Coast is in season and available at local seafood markets. The classic French recipe below is for those who would like to go the extra mile. The rich sauce can be made ahead, and baking the salmon just before serving makes it a superb dinner party entrée!
SALMON WITH SORREL SAUCE
Sorrel cooks down to a delectable sauce and lends its rich acidity to enhance this classic French salmon dish.
For the sauce
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces sorrel
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup fish stock*
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1/2 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Whole chives for garnish
For the salmon
2 1/2 to 3 pounds center cut salmon fillet
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots or scallion
1. Remove stems of sorrel leaves and discard. Wash leaves in several changes of lukewarm water; spin dry. Stack and slice leaves into chiffonade. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet and add the sorrel. Cook the leaves, stirring until wilted to a purée, about 2 minutes and add shallots. Sauté shallots with purée for 1 to 2 minutes then pour in wine and stock. Simmer mixture briskly until reduced by half, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add cream to sorrel purée and stir to mix. Simmer for another minute or two. Sauce can be prepared up to a day ahead to this point and refrigerated in a suitable container. Sauce will coagulate in fridge. Microwave to soften.
2. Have fishmonger cut salmon into boneless steaks of about 6 ounces each. Butter a non-reactive baking dish (Pyrex) and sprinkle with the shallots. Arrange the steaks over shallots about 1/2” apart. Cover with a tent of lightly buttered parchment or waxed paper. Can be done several hours ahead to this point. Refrigerate covered.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
3. Place covered salmon steaks in preheated oven and bake about 8 minutes until barely opaque and springy to the touch. Do not overcook. Meanwhile reheat the sauce and keep warm over low heat. Taste to adjust seasoning if necessary. Warm six dinner plates. Puddle the warm sauce in the center of each plate. Place a salmon filet over the sauce and garnish with a crisscross of whole chives.
* Reserve salmon trimmings for fish stock. Place trimmings in a small saucepan and cover with 2 cups cold water. Add a rib of celery and a small onion with a few black peppercorns and bring to the edge of a boil. Simmer briskly for 20 to 25 minutes until reduced to about 1 cup—strain into a clean saucepan and reserve.
Adapted from Silvia Lehrer’s Savoring the Hamptons: Discovering the Food and Wine of Long Island’s East End (Running Press, 2011)
BROILED SALMON STEAKS WITH SAUTÉED LEEK
When broiling fish, use an ovenproof baking pan and broil on one side only.
2 to 3 leeks, trimmed and rinsed clean
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 salmon steaks, 1” to 1 1/4” thick
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 sprigs fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 to 2/3 cups dry white wine or 1/3 cup dry vermouth
1. Leeks can harbor sand between the layers; be sure to trim and clean them very well. Hold the core end and cut the dark green layers at an angle to expose the lighter layers of leek underneath. Hold leek at core end, insert knife just above base and make lengthwise slits in, but not through, the leeks. Rinse leeks under cold running water then soak them in fresh water to cover about 15 minutes. Drain leeks; dry well with paper towels and cut into 1/2” slices.
2. Heat vegetable oil and butter in a large non-stick skillet. When butter melts and foam subsides, put in the leek and sauté for about 10 to 12 minutes over very low heat, toss occasionally until lightly golden and tender. Keep warm or reheat before serving.
3. When ready to serve. place steaks in an ovenproof baking dish, and season with a drizzle of oil, thyme sprigs, and salt and pepper; pat the seasonings down gently. Can be done up to 30 minutes ahead.
4. Preheat broiler to highest setting. Pour wine around the salmon and broil about 4” from the source of heat for about 8 minutes until tender and springy to the touch. Serve on bed of warm leek.