Cousinette Sorrel Soup

by editor on July 12, 2010

Cousinette - Sorrel Soup

A recent dinner thali involving a sorrel sauce at Poppy in Seattle, prompted me to make a batch of sorrel soup that I remember somewhat fondly from my days in France. (Poppy was created by Chef Jerry Traunfeld – a man whose mastery of herbs could make grass sprouting from a city sidewalk taste like a delicacy – and I never tire of eating there because I am always delighted and inspired by the harmonic diversity of cuisine and flavor within the same dinner.)

Cousinette is a simple Béarnaise spring soup, bright, fresh and almost citrusy, with remarkably few ingredients besides herbs and leaves.While the dominant flavor is sorrell, other greens often found in Cousinette include chard, spinach, mallow and chicory. Sorrel, a rather bold herb used in a fascinating array of European, Eastern European and African dishes, confers a bright and tart flavor to the dish as it contains a small amount of oxalic acid, the same substance found in rhubarb leaves that renders them inedible.

While you can use vegetable stock as the base for this soup, the use of mineral water is traditional and preserves the freshness and flavor clarity of the greens. Chef Ethan Stowell, who incidentally named one of his wonderful restaurants “How To Cook a Wolf“, after the MFK Fisher book, explains the use of water vs stock in more detail here.

This soup is best served in small bowls or ramekins as a small soup course. It is traditionally poured over a hearty slice of toasted rye bread, but I often pair it with savory gruyere walnut biscotti (recipe coming soon), or pillows of buttery, savory comte and dill biscuits.

Cousinette Sorrel Soup

Cousinette – French Sorrel Soup
Serves 8, in ramekins or small bowls.

For the Cousinette
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley
1 litre (34 fl oz) mineral water (I used Evian – sparkling is just fine too)
4oz (100g) sorrel
4 oz (100g) baby spinach
8oz (200g) chard, tough stems removed
6oz (180ml) crème fraîche
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rye bread for serving (optional)

Chiffonade the sorrel, spinach and chard and set aside.

Tie the parsley into a tight bunch with butchers string, halfway up the stems. Cut off the leaves, and chop finely.

Place bundle of parsely stalks into large pot with the mineral water, and bring to a boil. Add the parsley leaves, sorrel, spinach and chard, and stir together. Reduce heat to medium low, partially cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove pan from heat. Discard parsely bundle and stir in the crème fraîche.

Season to taste – adding salt gradually, tasting as you go. You may need to add several teaspoons of salt since you are using mineral water instead of vegetable stock. There is a critical point at which the salt and the tartness of the sorrel and crème fraîche are perfectly balanced – do not be tempted to underseason this soup as it will taste flat and tart.

If serving with rye bread, toast the bread and place in each bowl before pouring soup over. You can also process the Cousinette for a more uniform texture if you prefer.