Salmon with sorrel defined an era — roughly the late 1980s — and a trend: nouvelle cuisine. The “new cooking” called for fresher ingredients, simpler sauces, quicker techniques. Producing wisdom (crisp!) and folly (minuscule!).
Once I took an old friend out for nouvelle. When her dish arrived, she blasted the dining room with a long and loud guffaw. She was right: Three marbles of puree make a meager meal.
Some innovations — like lighter fare — now count as commonsense. Others — like wide, white plates dotted with pale, precious portions — faded away. Salmon with sorrel still clings to many a menu.
I read that old recipe: It’s a slip of fish, barely seared, wriggling in buttery cream sauce. Delicious, no doubt, but dated. I tried a bolder version, punctuated with lemon, pepper and garlic; it’s crisp outside, flaky within. Not nouvelle. But, for our time, new.
Salmon and Creamed Greens
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
1 garlic clove
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
4 portions salmon fillet, 6 oz. each, bones and skin removed
3 oz. fresh sorrel (or substitute tatsoi or additional spinach)
10 oz. fresh spinach (baby or grown-up)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. heavy cream
½ tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1. Marinate: Chop garlic and 1 teaspoon salt into a grainy paste. Whisk in lemon juice. Pour into a glass or ceramic dish. Add salmon and turn each chunk once or twice to coat. Let rest at room temperature.
2. Wash: Pull sorrel (or tatsoi) leaves off their stems. Discard stems. Do the same with grown-up spinach; baby spinach can hang onto its baby stems. Wash and spin dry all leaves, letting some water cling.
3. Steam: Heap leaves in a big pot. Cover. Set over high heat. When steam begins to snort from the lid rim, pull pot off heat. Tip wilted leaves into a colander. Rinse under cool water. Squeeze down to a dense puck. Roughly chop.
4. Crisp: Pull salmon out of its marinade. Pat dry. Crack on plenty of pepper. Heat oil in a wide cast-iron skillet over medium. When hot, add salmon. Cook until crisp outside and cooked through inside, 4 to 5 minutes per side.
5. Thicken: Meanwhile, make the creamed greens. In a medium saucepan (large enough to accommodate cream bubble-up), heat cream over medium-high heat. When cream comes to a boil, cook, stirring, until thickened and reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Stir in chopped greens. Season with salt, pepper, lemon zest and a few grates of nutmeg.
6. Serve: Divide creamed greens among 4 plates. Top with salmon. Dig in.