Sorrel is tricky, in my opinion. When you as much as get it near heat, it wilts into a slippery grayish mass. When you use it raw, all but the smallest leaves can be on the wrong side of tender. Yet I keep coming back to sorrel: Its racy, fresh tang makes me happy just about anywhere I taste it. And classic Mexican roasted tomatillo salsa is the most delicious place I’ve found to weave it in, adding its fresh green lemoniness to an already vibrant condiment. A condiment I find perfect for everything from grilled vegetables to steak tacos to the pan-fried (or, even better, stir-fried) shrimp I’m describing here. It’s spectacular spooned on broiled tofu or roasted or steamed white-flesh sweet potatoes (the ones they call “Japanese” in my farmers market, camote morado in my Mexican market). Or stirred into creamy poblano chile soup. Or mixed with mayonnaise for a dynamic dressing for sturdy greens or potato salad. I have the great chef and cookbook author Cindy Pawlcyn for bringing to light for me this brilliant marriage between tomatillo and sorrel.
- 6medium (about 12 ounces)tomatillos, husked and rinsed
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- Fresh hot green chile to taste (usually 1 jalapeño or 2 serranos), stemmed
- 1cup roughly chopped, loosely packed fresh sorrel leaves (if sorrel is out of season, wild arugula and wild watercress from the farmers market also work)
- 2 to 3tablespoons olive oil
- 1¼ to 1 ½ pounds (30 to 35) medium-large shrimp, peeled (leaving the final tail segment on for appearance sake) and deveined if you wish
- 1medium onion, sliced ¼-inch thick
Heat the broiler and adjust the shelf to its highest position. Spread the tomatillos, garlic and chiles on a baking sheet, slide under the hot broiler and roast until the tomatillos are soft and lightly blackened in spots (about 5 minutes per side—the garlic and chiles should be done in about the same amount of time). Cool to room temperature, scoop into a blender jar (including any juices from the tomatillos), add the sorrel and pulse until you have a puree that’s nearly smooth. Add a little water (usually about 2 tablespoons) to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency. Taste and season with a little salt if it needs it (believe it or not, sometimes it doesn’t need any).
In a wok or very large (12-inch) skillet set over medium-high, heat enough oil to coat the bottom (it takes less oil for wok cooking and I like the texture of the shrimp better from a wok). Add the onion and stir-fry until richly browned but still crunchy, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the shrimp with salt, add them to the onions and continue to stir-fry until the shrimp are just barely cooked, about 5 minutes more. If they’re still a tiny bit translucent in the middle, they’ll coast to perfect doneness as you divide them between warm serving plates. Spoon the salsa over the shrimp and you’re ready to serve.