It looks like spinach but tastes NOTHING like it. A sour, delicate leaf, perfect in soups and stews as it has a remarkable thickening quality while retaining its vibrant taste. Spinach cannot compare. I don’t know why the whole world isn’t cuckoo for sorrel. In fact, I’m hoping to start a trend here. People, if you haven’t tried it, take my word for it, you simply must. Period. With the scents that were wafting out of the kitchen, we knew we had one legendary meal in the making.
Today, after a rather frustrating morning of heavy work, I boarded the bus to Jerusalem, on a whim. One of my favorite friends, the lovely queendeb, resides there on the border of Baka and Talpiot (although she only admits to Talpiot). We don’t get together as often as we should, and as two creative food-minded people, we decided on a cooking project. I brought the sorrel and a bottle of Israeli-Champagne (GHW’s Gamla Brut). In her quirky kosher kitchen (with her little brother in NYC on video-Skype the entire time), we proceeded in what felt like an adventurous cooking show. Here’s what became of our evening:
- olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 small celery root, chopped
- 1 yam, chopped
- 500 g chicken wings
- 1 bunch sorrel, 1/2 chopped, 1/2 left whole
- handful of cilantro stems, chopped
- 3-4 small celery stalks with leaves, chopped
- 1/2 white cabbage, cut into large in-tact wedges
- juice of 1 lemon
- zest of 1 lemon, 1/2 finely chopped, 1/2 in strips
- 2 cups water
- 1 tbs yellow mustard
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 shot Laphroaig Whisky
- chipotle pepper to taste
- pepper, garlic powder, chili, etc to taste
- In a large soup pot over high heat, drizzle olive oil, then brown the chicken wings. Remove.
- Whisk together the mustard and soy sauce.
- With the fat of the chicken left behind, add the onion, garlic, celery root, and yams (in that order – waiting a minute between additions). Cook at medium heat until sweating/softened. Add mustard/soy sauce.
- Layer the chicken wings evenly over the vegetables. Then sprinkle the chopped sorrel, chopped celery & celery leaves, and cilantro stems evenly over the chicken.
- Sprinkle chipotle pepper over the surface.
- Create a layer with the whole sorrel leaves spread flat. Place the cabbage wedges over the sorrel evenly.
- Pour the whisky over the contents of the entire pot. Allow to cook for a few minutes to let the alcohol evaporate.
- Sprinkle all the lemon zest, and pour lemon juice over the contents of the pot.
- Without stirring, slowly and carefully pour two glasses of water into the pot.
- Bring to a boil, reduce flame to lowest possible, cover and let simmer for 30-60 minutes. Do not stir, but checking to ensure the bottom layer isn’t burning is fine. Add pepper, spices, etc at the end, to taste.
- Serve over couscous or rice.
The resulting stew-y casserole was pure heaven. Rich, smoky, sour, spiced. The smoky qualities of both the Laphroaig and the chipotle pepper, combined with the tartness of the sorrel and the lemon components, were so complementary, it was wild! All the veg fell apart, becoming almost caramel-like. The sorrel indeed thickened things up, and oh me, oh my, the lemon zest was a joy in and of itself! The layering method came about organically, in that we thought it would be interesting to allow the leafier veg to steam in the lovely saucy broth of the layers beneath it. And what can I say of the chicken? It fell off the bone. So tender. So moist. So perfect.
The best part was, even though we didn’t know where we’d end up, we always knew we could do it. Two savvy seasoned cooks with random well-loved ingredients having a ball. The bubbly went great with the meal, and I’m so glad we drank it. This meal was a shining beacon in the middle of a drab work week. So, it’s a yes to letting loose! A yes to drinking your best wine for no reason but to enjoy it in the here and now! And a resounding yes to sorrel! To single malt scotches everywhere! To lemon rinds! To chipotle! L’chaim, l’chaim to life!
And I’ve driven myself into the cheesy corner. But it really felt like that. A meal as a celebration. Even with just a couple lonesome American-Israeli friends. Especially because.