Pan-fried Trout Fillet with Sorrel Sauce
Updated: Feb 22, 2022
"... I hid myself between two leaves of sorrel, and there discharged the necessities of nature."
Jonathan Swift (1726)
Sorrel is a curious one. Very much a “traditional” “food”, you don’t come across it much. I always thought of it as something quintessentially British – indeed you’ll find it in the cookery writings of those such as Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson. But I was intrigued to read that the legend that is Raymond Blanc OBE would find it in the fields surrounding his childhood home in Franche-Comté of the east of France. And as such it should become an ingredient that would feature in his culinary repertoire. For the last couple of years I had been aware that Wild Country Organics were selling sorrel in the farmers’ market and I have been ever-curious to think what I might do with it.
This recipe is an adaptation of one of Chef Blanc’s, from his book "Foolproof French Cookery". His recipe was for salmon accompanied by a sorrel sauce, but salmon comes from sources far too distant to be eligible for sale in the local farmers’ markets. Happily, Charlie's Trout and Charlie's Smoke House bring to the market as best-quality trout you could hope for, fish from the Wiltshire Avon. Being a closely related species, I thought this was an ideal treatment for a fillet of top-notch trout, and it really is. As it happens the sorrel is sold in the same farmers' market - something of a winner in my book!
It's quite a rich dish but it’s only a pleasure to get through. And the best thing is it’s really quite easy to make.
As a rough guide, if you buy a 200g fillet of trout you will get approximately 175g once the skin has been removed. In a rich dish like this that is a generous enough portion I would say. Alternatively a 400g fillet will yield two portions of 150-175g once it has been skinned and halved.
I cannot encourage the substitution of the whipping cream with single cream. It's not that I claim to have tried it but I am all too aware of the risks of dairy splitting when being heated to make sauces and, from what I understand, those risks are particularly prevalent when using single cream. Thankfully whipping cream is pretty easy to get hold of in larger supermarkets.
Little risk, by contrast, comes from using freshly ground black pepper instead of freshly ground white pepper if the latter is not to hand. The only "detraction" the black pepper may lend is the in the cleanliness of appearance of the finished dish. That said, I'd probably rather the specks of black pepper in the final presentation than substitute with pre-ground white pepper - as a product I find it has its places but here is not one of them.
Once the ingredients are prepped this dish takes only about 10 minutes to cook.
Pan-fried Trout Fillet with Sorrel Sauce
Ingredients (Serves 2)
2 x 150-175g trout fillets, skinned
40g chopped shallot
25ml dry white wine
60g sorrel, stalks removed (weight before removing the stalks), washed and dried
60ml whipping cream
Juice of about half a lemon
Half of a (ideally plum) tomato, deseeded, skin-on, cut into neat 5mm dice
10g unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
To make the sauce, boil the white wine and shallot in a small saucepan for about a minute to allow the alcohol from the wine to evaporate. Add the sorrel, cream, a squeeze of lemon juice (1-2 tsp) and a pinch or two of salt and ground white pepper. Bring back to the boil and allow to bubble gently, stirring continuously, for another minute or so until the sorrel has wilted (don't be concerned if the sorrel discolours a bit) and the cream has thickened somewhat. Remove from the heat, stir in the tomato dice and set aside while cooking the fish.
In a suitably sized frying pan melt the butter and meanwhile season the trout fillets with a pinch of salt and a pinch of ground white pepper. When the butter is starting to foam, lay the fish fillets in the pan and cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes per side depending on how thick the fillets are. Remove from the heat and drizzle with a squeeze of lemon each (1-2 tsp). Set aside to rest for a couple of minutes while finishing everything off.
Gently reheat the sauce and, once up to temperature, spoon into two wide soup bowls or deep plates. Place the trout fillets on top and serve straight away.
"Foolproof French Cookery", Raymond Blanc (2002), pp. 52: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Foolproof-French-Cookery-Raymond-Blanc/dp/0563534648