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Sorrel adds texture and a lemony flavor

SHARE Sorrel adds texture and a lemony flavor

Sorrel is that rare vegetable that becomes a sauce as it cooks, adding a creamy texture and lemony flavor to any dish. And so it could not be simpler as an unusual partner for braised chicken. Add it to the pan toward the end of cooking, and it virtually disintegrates into a tangy liquid.

A leafy green that looks like flat-leaf spinach, sorrel is also known as sour grass but actually has a delicate flavor. Its tendency to liquefy when cooked has determined its destiny, usually as an ingredient in sauces or soups.

Raw sorrel is so sour that it can be used only as an accent. Cooked, however, its strength is nearly perfect, mild enough that it is traditionally teamed with fish, particularly salmon. But with chicken it becomes the dominant flavor.

Sorrel works especially well with the dark meat of chicken because the acidity cuts the richness. But I like cooking white and dark meat together to give people a choice. Braising keeps the breasts from drying out.

Sorrel is a perennial that survives Northeast winters and is in season locally now. You can buy it at many Greenmarkets, farm stands and good food stores, and at some supermarkets. The leaves should look fresh and vibrant, not at all limp. For this recipe you will need about one-half pound. Do not try to buy this quantity in little herb packs. Look for bunches.

Spinach is close to sorrel in many ways, and although it won't fall apart as sorrel does in a sauce, it is the best substitute in the recipe here. Sorrel does not keep as well as spinach and should be used as soon after purchase as possible. Like spinach, it should be washed well to remove any traces of grit.


Time: 40 minutes

2 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil

1 2 1/2- to 3-pound chicken, cut into serving pieces

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large or 2 medium onions, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices

6 cups loosely packed sorrel, about 1/2 pound, trimmed and washed

1. Put butter in large skillet, preferably nonstick, and turn heat to medium-high. When butter begins to melt, swirl it around pan. When its foam subsides and it begins to brown, add the chicken, skin side down. Cook, rotating pieces after 3 or 4 minutes so they brown evenly. As they brown on the skin side, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and turn them over; sprinkle skin side with salt and pepper as well. If necessary, lower heat to medium to prevent burning. Remove chicken to a plate when chicken is completely browned all over, in 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Immediately add onions to pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften but still hold their shape, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water and cook for a minute, stirring occasionally, until it reduces slightly. Return chicken to pan, turn heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes. Uncover, add sorrel, stir, and cover again.

3. Cook about 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and sorrel is dissolved into onions and liquid. Serve hot, with rice or crusty bread. Yield: 4 servings.