This sorrel soup recipe dates back to the eighties and my fascination with Martha Stewart. Now before you scoff, I will tell you that I discovered Martha Stewart when I was sixteen and she was doing PBS specials — before Martha became Martha, if you will. She was a caterer from Westport, Connecticut who lived in a lovely old home with a huge garden. We taped her Thanksgiving TV special and I watched it over and over, entranced. I decided I wanted to more to Westport to live in a Revolution-era farmhouse. My mother bought me her cookbook (Entertaining, 1982) and I replicated the menus fastidiously. Even now, on the odd occasion I leaf through that first book, the text is familiar to me, lodged somehow in my unconscious memory.
These days Martha is Martha, and I have realized that I am much better suited to a farmhouse on the West Coast (it’s the summer humidity, it makes me want to die), but I still like this soup. I have changed the recipe, however, to add mushrooms for a deeper, earthier soup (because it’s not quite spring yet), and I’ve altered the preparation technique to better preserve the sorrel’s fresh, sour flavor. But because I was such a devotee at an early age, and followed Ms. Stewart’s advice so thoroughly — “Sorrel is very easily grown as a perennial, and each garden should have 5 or 6 plants, which will last for years and provide the family with plenty of sour grass for soups and sauces” (Entertaining, pg 228)—I now have a hearty sorrel plant in my mother’s garden from which to forage fresh sorrel. The woman may be overly authoritative, but her advice pays off.
Almost Spring Sorrel Soup
Sorrel, if you have never seen it, resembles spinach but has a lovely, lemony flavor. In Eastern Europe it is sometimes called sour grass. According to Gardenguides.com, “Sorrel is an underutilized green in the US, and unjustifiably so.” It can be found in specialty shops and, if you’re interested in growing it, it is quite hearty—my plant has survived for nearly twenty years, even despite my lackadaisical attempts at watering. This soup is a variation on shav (or sharv), a classic Eastern Europen sorrel soup.
Yields four portions
- 3 tbs unstalted butter;
- ¾ cup onion, finely chopped;
- 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced;
- 2 cups mushrooms, cut into a small dice;
- 3 tbs all purpose flour;
- 5 cups chicken stock;
- 3 cups fresh sorrel, washed and cut into half inch ribbons;
- ¾ cup heavy cream;
- 2 egg yolks;
- ½ tsp salt or to taste;
- Freshly ground pepper;
- Tiny pinch nutmeg (optional).
- Melt the butter in a soup pot and add the onions, stirring occasionally until they begin to soften slightly. Put the chicken stock in a smaller saucepan and bring to a boil before turning the heat down. Add the garlic and mushrooms to the sautéed onions and continue to cook over medium heat until the mushrooms are soft but not soggy — about 10-15 minutes. Do not allow to brown. Sprinkle the flour into the onions and mushrooms and mix gently to incorporate. Continue to cook another five minutes.
- Slowly pour the chicken stock into the vegetable mixture, stirring gently. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, separate the eggs and reserve the whites for another purpose. Mix the yolks with the heavy cream in a mixing bowl. Remove two cups of the hot soup and slowly pour it into the egg and cream mixture, stirring slowly. When this has warmed the eggs and cream, slowly pour it into the soup, stirring to mix thoroughly. Let the soup warm, but do not let it boil or the eggs will curdle.
- Add the sorrel to the soup, stirring to incorporate. Add salt, pepper, and the tiniest amount of nutmeg, if you should so desire. Serve quickly — it will be spring before you know it.