IV: Sorrel

How sorrel revolutionized French cooking.

quartidi, the 24th of Frimaire, Year CCXXXI
Sorrel leaves. Photo by Filipp Romanovski / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is quartidi, the 24th of Frimaire, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate l'oseille, one last leafy green before the snows fall.

Sorrel, which starts tender in its baby stage then gets tougher – along the lines of chard – as it gets bigger, is best known for its acidic flavor. This is used in various ways to brighten up salads and impart a sour flavor to soups, but the remarkable chemistry of the leaf is that it can be used to tenderize meat or even dissolve small fish bones. 

When you think of French cooking, the first thing that comes to mind is sauce. Famous for mother sauces and Escoffier and delicate blends of precise cooking chemistry, French cuisine is all about making sure the food is bathed in flavor. That is, until everything changed 60 years ago, thanks to a little bit of judiciously used sorrel.