I have had the good fortune to get my hands on a package of dried morels thanks to the savvy folks at Marx Foods. The lure is that if I can make something sublime with these dried puppies I can win the motherload of a passel of fresh morels. Now that is a challenge worth going to the mat for!
I tried to remember all the wonderful morel dishes I’ve been lucky enough to make or taste and went to Mr. Mushroom, Jack Czarnecki to jog my memory. I have had his Joe's Book of Mushroom Cookery for 20 years.
I did remember that it was best to hydrate the day before, strain and save the water and put them in the fridge wrapped in a towel… they will nearly have the texture of fresh. I can’t remember who told me this but it works.
One of my favorite morel dishes is simple creamed morels on toast with asparagus on the side. It’s a classic. However, since this is a contest, I figured that I would up the ante and make it my own with a few well-chosen additions.
On goes the magic thinking cap. My ex’s mom, the wonderful Marion, surprised me once by making her version of strawberry shortcake. I am a mid-western girl and she was a southerner from Lookout Mountain. She made the dish using piecrust “cookies” instead of a fluffy biscuit underneath that mound of cream and berries that I grew up with. It was delicious and these “cookies” have become a workhorse of my pantry. I make a dozen and keep them in the freezer. I take them out and pop them in the toaster oven and use them to dress up leftovers, make nearly instant potpie crust or slather them in jam or berries for dessert. I decided to use them with my morels. Morels and beef in a cream sauce with fried crispy morels on top and asparagus on the side because, well I love asparagus and morels and asparagus go together like angels and singing. It is also a combination that screams Spring Is Here!
The really fun website The Great Morel.com had some wonderful tips and suggestions about a zillion ways to fry morels. I looked through their suggestions and one of them raved about an English [I went to Heston Blumenthal to get a little help with proportions] batter for fish with rice flour and vodka and beer that they used for morels--wow. I think the unctuous creaminess of the beef and morels and the crisp top and bottom are a devastating combination. The batter makes the most shatteringly delicate crust you have ever seen… like the world’s best tempura! I fried some parsley in it and I used it with shrimp, it worked on everything I tried.
18th c pewter plate
Morels and Beef on Pie Crust w Cream Sauce & Deep- Fried Morels
Preheat oven to 375º
1 c flour
¼ c whole-wheat flour
½ t. salt, fresh marjoram
2 T lard (from Flying Pigs )
8 T butter
¼ c ice water
Blend the flours, salt and marjoram in the food processor. Add the frozen butter and lard in small pieces and pulse a few times. Remove from processor and add the water, a little at a time stirring to blend with a fork. Add enough water so the pastry holds together when you grab some and squeeze. Put ¼ c four on a piece of wax paper. Grab 6-8 handfuls of the dough and place on wax paper. Take each and smear. Pile up the flattened pieces and stack them into a mound—flatten slightly. Place in fridge for 1 hour in the wax paper. Remove from fridge. Roll the dough out to your favorite thickness (less than ¼”). Using a cookie cutter, cut out circles and place on cookie sheet. Prick the cookies with a fork and bake 15 minutes or until golden. This makes 12 -3” cookies.
Fried Morels (this batter can do many mushrooms with left over for many other good things!)
1/4 c flour
1/4 c rice flour (I whirred brown rice in the coffee mill)
1/4 t baking powder
1 T powdered pecans (same coffee mill trick)
¼ c vodka (* you can add more, but make sure it isn’t too much, it drips off the mushrooms!)
¼ c lager. (*you can add more, but make sure it isn’t too much, it drips off the mushrooms!)
Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the vodka and stir. Add the lager just before using. Dip the 8 morels in the batter and fry in 2 “ of vegetable oil till brown and crisp. Do this after the rest of the dish is all ready to go or do it and put them in a 200º oven on paper towels over a rack till ready to use.
Creamed Beef and Morels.
1 pound beef in 1” pieces **
1-2 T oil for frying
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
a few sprigs fresh thyme
1 T peppercorns, crushed
1 c red wine
3/4 C stock (chicken, beef or veal)
¼ c morel soaking liquid, strained
1 oz dried morels (re-hydrated) all extra water gently squeezed out – about 2 cups, reserve 8-10 for frying
2 T butter
1 large shallot, chopped
2 T cognac
1 T madeira (I used The Rare Wine Company'sBoston Bual)
1 c cream
1 T ancho pepper that has been re-hydrated and pureed
Chopped parsley and Thyme or Marjoram
1-2 T Green Peppercorns in brine
Salt the beef, then sauté in oil till browned. Remove from pan and sauté onion and garlic. Add thyme and peppercorns. Deglaze pan with wine and add stock and mushroom liquid. Return the beef to the pot, cover and cook the beef in a 250º oven for 2 hours, remove thyme.
** Should you desire you could use Filet Mignon. If you choose to use this, cook it very little. Reduce the sauce on the stovetop and only add the beef again to warm at the end. Strain the beef and reserve cooking liquid.
Melt butter and sauté shallot. Add morels and stir gently until water is removed. Add cognac and Madeira and deglaze. Pour in the reserved cooking liquid and reduce. Add the cream and pepper puree and the beef and cook about 30 minutes on a low heat (if you are using the filet option, only put the beef in after the sauce has reduced—then just warm the beef through—keep it medium rare). Add chopped herbs and green peppercorns.
Serve over pastry rounds and top with fried mushrooms.
I wanted to thank Sarah at All Our Fingers in the Pie for this lovely award.
I’d like to share it with a few of you who have really been wonderful blog inspiration and who have shared great stories and encouragement and or expanded my international horizons!
Barbara @ moveable feast
Moira @ tertulia des sabores
Lee Ann @ powderate
Sarah @ four pounds flour
And a new one I love, from the wonderful former editor of House & Garden, Dominique @Slow Love Life
reading it is like having coffee with a wise and brilliant friend in a sunny window seat on a perfect Spring day.