Scallops with Sorrel Cream (à la Troisgros)

Seared Scallops with Sorrel Cream

Let’s have a history lesson. A history lesson that starts with Seared Scallops with Sorrel Cream – actually it ends with Seared Scallops with Sorrel Cream from my very own kitchen. The real lesson starts in a restaurant kitchen in Roane, France.

In the 1960s the American culinary world was abuzz with the suddenly “discovered” beauty of classical French cuisine. It was brought to our attention by the commendable talents of Julia Child. Her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking changed the way North American home cooks like my mother began to look at food.

However, just as Ms. Child was introducing Americans to classical French cooking; classical French cooking itself was being challenged in of all places – France!

Brothers Jean and Pierre Troisgros began quietly transforming modern French cooking in their Michelin starred restaurant in Roane. Until this time the classic Escoiffer school of thought had ruled French cuisine. Period. There were no other contenders. However, that was about to change. Whether they set out to do it or not, these guys introduced France to a style of cooking that would soon be dubbed “la nouvelle cuisine”. To change something as ingrained in a culture as classical French cooking is an unmentionable feat – especially in France.

Suddenly the hard and fast rules and century long traditions of classical French cooking cracked open just enough to make room for a new style. A style that could best be called spare. I’m not saying these chefs chose to forgo butter and cream (or meat and potatoes). In fact they continued to use classical French components in their cooking. However, they did change the way food was plated and arranged. The emphasis they placed on one ingredient over another altered the way the French saw their national heritage.

Wine Pairing

Eric Cottat Sancerre 2013 

Eric Cottat Sancerre 2013
Greg took a nouvelle cuisine approach to classic French cooking in his scallop dish. So I thought, bien sûr I had better chose a classic French wine– perhaps one with a nouvelle twist. But where to start? A lovely evening of wine tasting in hipster DTLA hosted by Loire Valley Wines provided the catalyst, eventually leading me to the 2013 Eric […]
Ken Eskenazi

Price $19

Pairs well with cold shellfish, warm scallops, white fish, grilled salmon

One of the dishes that defined the changing culinary times was Salmon with Sorrel Cream. Stepping away from the Escoiffer tradition, the Troisgros brothers chose not to poach their salmon, but to quickly pan-fry it in a practically dry pan. If that were not scandalous enough, the sauce was not given top of the plate prominence. Instead of spooning a lovely cream sauce over a succulent slice of salmon, these guys placed the salmon on top of the sauce – dry and unadorned. I hope you’re shocked. Because, it simply wasn’t done that way!

Seared Scallops with Sorrel Cream

Which brings me to today. I made these Seared Scallops with Sorrel Cream in honor of the pioneering spirit of the Troisgros brothers. Looking at the dish today, my scallops may not seem like such a revelation. In fact the creamy sauce and unusual use of sorrel may seem more quaint than nouvelle. Because now, just as then, changes are afoot in the culinary world. Globalization and fusion are joining forces with healthier lifestyles. Culinary sensibilities are being challenged once again. Not only are sauces not given top of the plate prominence – they’re often left off the plate entirely.

I don’t know what the future of cooking may bring. However, as with anything, it’s hard to know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been. I’d like to think that simple dishes like these Seared Scallops with Sorrel Cream will remind us of our culinary past as well as our future. GREGSeared Scallops

Fresh SorrelSorrel Cream Sauce

Scallops with Sorrel Cream Sauce 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Inspired by Pierre TroisgrosPublished
Scallops Sorrel Cream


  • 1 cup clam juice
  • 2 tablespoon minced shallot
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 8 ounce crème fraîche (at room temperature)
  • 4 tablespoon unsalted butter (cut into small chunks)
  • 2 ounce fresh sorrel leaves (about 2 cups packed), washed, stemmed, and large leaves torn into two or three pieces
  • sea salt (to taste)
  • ground white pepper (to taste)
  • canola oil (or other high smoke point, mild flavored oil)
  • 8 large room temperature sea scallops (about 1 pound, rinsed and throughly dried)
  • lemon wedges (as needed)


In a medium saucepan combine clam juice and shallots; bring to a boil and cook until reduced by 3/4, about 6 minutes. Add wine and and continue to cook about 3 minutes more. Lower the heat to low and add crème fraîche. Simmer, stirring often, until thick enough to coat the spoon nicely, about 5 or 6 minutes. Pass through a fine mesh sieve into a clean pan. Discard solids in sieve.

Return the sauce to low heat. Once it begins to simmer stir in the butter chunks one at a time until fully incorporated. Add the sorrel, stirring until wilted. Turn off heat and season lightly with salt and white pepper. Set aside, covered, in a warm place.

Meanwhile, heat a large, heavy non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat; swirl in just enough oil to lightly coat bottom of skillet. Pat scallops very dry, season with salt, and add to skillet. Cook, undisturbed, until a well-browned crust develops on bottom, about 2 minutes. Flip, season with salt, and cook until browned and barely cooked through but still pink in center, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not crowd skillet, work in batches if necessary, adding a bit more oil as needed.

Spoon some warm sauce and sorrel leaves onto four warm plates. Nestle two seared scallops on top of each plate. Serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side.

Seared Scallops with Sorrel Cream