Serious Eats: Recipes

French in a Flash: Salmon with Sorrel and Asparagus en Papillote

"So many recipes in French cuisine, like saumon à l'oseille, are rustic-refined."

[Photographs: Kerry Saretsky]

Salmon and sorrel go as hand-in-hand in French cuisine, as much as Napoleon and his white horse, or Marie Antoinette and La Guillotine do in French history. A somewhat obscure herb to many, sorrel is leafy, grassy, fresh, and slightly astringent. It is that insistent acerbic tang that makes it such match for salmon—countering the butteriness of the fish, holding its pungency at bay.

Traditionally, salmon with sorrel sauce, saumon à l'oseille, is a seared fillet of salmon served with a creamy sauce made from cream and sorrel, among other things, heated and pulverized into purée. I have always found that French culture has a wonderful capacity for supporting two opposing but equal truths at once in the same vessel: girls, for example, may be jolie-laide, or pretty-ugly. Similarly, so many recipes in French cuisine, like saumon à l'oseille, are rustic-refined—a dichotomous combination of simple heartiness, elegant but unfussy presentation, and uncomplicated but pert flavors.

This rendition is the modern working girl's version of saumon à l'oseille, created for my newly married friend Tali. She works all day, sometimes into the night, and is ambitious but not self-assured in the kitchen. And she is starving for easy, fast, healthy recipes for her and her new husband. These little packets, fish cooked "en papillote," cradle the vegetable, the fish, and the sauce, all in one disposable sack from prep to trashcan. Just place the asparagus on a piece of parchment or foil, top with the fish, the sorrel, and some wine and crème fraîche, seal the packet, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.

The parcels come out puffed and proud, steaming and triumphant. Eat the fish out of the packet, perhaps with some five-minute fluffed couscous or plain boiled new potatoes or even crusty, warm baguette. Clean-up is virtually non-existent, the meal takes basically no work, and yet the combination of flavors is sophisticated, and innovative while being traditional. Like a new marriage...

About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way. She also writes the The Secret Ingredient series for Serious Eats.

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