Monday, April 5, 2010

Morels ~ Creamed and Deep Fried with Beef on Pastry

The first time I saw a morel mushroom I thought it was a monster from space and couldn’t believe it wasn’t poisonous or an alien invader. It didn’t have that classic ‘toad stool’ mushroom shape and it surely did not have the soft brown texture I was used to in cultivated mushrooms. No wonder, the morel or Morchella is an Ascocarp like the truffle and not technically a mushroom. What I also didn’t know is that it should never be eaten raw as they have a small amount of toxins in them that are removed through cooking. Once cooked… they are heaven.

Morel Mushrooms

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 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
Serves 3-4
Piecrust Cookies.
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)
1t. honey
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 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!
Lee Ann @ powderate
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.


La Table De Nana said...

Good luck..Hope you put great effort..aren't they gnome-like?I love them.

Anonymous said...

Excellent dish with morels! I'll be making mine tonight :)

Deanna said...

I love morels. Its a shame they don't grow wild by me. Oh well. Good luck on the contest! And thanks for the award. If I actually knew anything about computers I would have figured out how to put it on my blog, but I don't.

Mary Bergfeld said...

I hope you win!!!! Your recipes are really interesting and that is important. Have a great day...Mary

Medieval Muse said...

I grew up in the rugged, rural mountains of West Virginia in the states and these little beauties dot the woodlands. Many of the "mountain folk" call them "Miracles".

Your recipes elevate them to an art form! Wow!

Barbara said...

First of all, thank you so much for the award, Deana! I LOVE awards! (And don't really feel I deserve them!)

Now morels! I adore them. We used to forage for them in Michigan right about this time of year. Found them in apple orchards mostly. Mother would dip them in flour and fry them in butter. Naughty, but heavenly. Then one year at the Greenbriar, I had them in an omelet. And again at dinner in a sauce over steak. I actually went to the chef and asked for the recipe. (I didn't get it. I bet madeira was part of it.) You can get the fresh in finer stores this time of year( even down here-- pricey), but the rest of the year, you have to depend on dried. Nothing wrong with that, the flavor is still there, but it doesn't hold a candle to the fresh.
Your former MIL's pie crust is a super idea! I'm going to steal it.
And your recipe is divine! You are bound to win.. nobody is more creative!

Fresh Local and Best said...

Oh my gosh! This is the second time I've heard of deep fried morels, and they sound amazing!! There are so many ways to eat morels, they are so good!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

That looks so appetising Deana! Great idea serving it on a pie crust too-who doesn't love pie? I hope you win-you deserve it with a dish like this! :D

Sarah said...

Wow! This is a winner! I didn't realize morels were better if soaked a day ahead of use. This is good info. I was in Paris for Christmas 2008 and went morel crazy at Fauchon's. They had the most beautiful dried morels. I bought baby ones and some larger ones. I think I spent about 50 Euros on morels that day.

Pam said...

Morels are the best! This is a great recipe that I will have to try. It sounds incredibly delicious! Thanks!

2 Stews said...

Wow...I love the sound of all of this. Good luck with the contest. Let us know how it all goes.

I'll have to give this a just seems so earthy and springlike!


Deana Sidney said...

TabledeNana>they are so good and don't look real, do they.. sort of fairytale!
5Star> I can't wait to see what you make!!!
Deanna> emailed you instructions.. don't feel bad... computers are your friend.. just a troublesome friend. Morels make a great pizza too.. and the guys at Marx have great ones!!
Mary> great praise coming from you... thanks.. I would love to win because morels are spectacular!
Medieval Muse> that is so cool... miracles... who knew, that is a great story. Hope you have lots of them in your woods... so tasty!

Moira - Tertúlia de Sabores said...

Wonderful suggestion, i hope you can win some fresh morels.
I never ate a morel in my life, and now i'm curious about its taste. I aggree with you they look like something from another planet :)
Love aspargus, it's the first signal of spring, but in Portugal people don't eat them a lot because the fresh ones are a little bit expensive. I prefer the green ones but the white are good for salads and soups.
To finish i want to thank you the award, it's an honour to me be part of your reading list. Now i'm going to visit the other "winners".
I almost forgot to say that I love that thinking cap, very 60's :)))

Deana Sidney said...

Barbara>Oh Barbara, as most bloggers in my blogosphere will attest, you are one of the warmest and most generous supporters out there. Your comments are always personal and include a story. I try to be supportive but I don't always have the time to write so beautifully. I get a little thrill each time I see your face on the comments because I know there will be something fun to read! You will love the pie crust cookies... they are sensational and are nearly as good as fresh after a minute in the toaster oven... one of my kitchen secrets. Love your story about trying to get recipes.. funny how some chefs love to give it and others are sooo protective! Try the batter... it is amazing.. I used it on the asparagus too... the vodka makes it like air!
Tell you what... if I win I'll send you a little package of morels!

Deana Sidney said...

Susan>I know that friends used to find them.. I never did. My best mushroom gathering was for chanterelles in northern california... so good.
Freshlocal and best> they are great fried, Christine... you will love this batter!
Lorraine> Those cookies are the best...deconstructed pot pie!
AllOurFIngers> I wish I could tell you where I got the soaking tip... been doing it so long I don't remember where I found it... but it
really works... ruins the washcloth if it's light colored though! I am so jealous you were in Paris at Christmas buying out Fauchon.... heaven!
Pam> I do hope you'll try it.. it is best in cooler weather!
DIane> Thanks... it would be cool if I won but there are so many great people out there...will let you know!
Moira> I just love your blog... still crazy about your prunes and sherry and make it all the time (including putting it on those cookies!) I want more people to find your blog... thanks to the Google translator you can read in every language! Glad you liked the thinking cap... it made me smile too and I thought a little humor is nice in my informational blogs!

Moira - Tertúlia de Sabores said...

Moments ago it came to my mind an old recipe in my blog that you should love, something like the prunes but made with dried figs (
And if some day "St. Google" fails in translation please ask me for help, i'm not an expert in translations but my english is enough to help ;)

From the Kitchen said...

Morels, how I wish I could write an ode to them! There are morel hunters around me but I'm too afraid to be one of them. I am going to surprise my mushroom-loving Polish husband with your recipe soon. Let me add that, for Easter, he did the strawberry shortcake the southern way (I'm the southerner) for our Easter dinner. His biscuits were delicious stuffed to overflowing with strawberries and freshly whipped cream.

I've enjoyed reading your blog and shall return.


Deana Sidney said...

Moira> checked your recipe out immediately... excellent of course... love that you call it St. Google!
From the Kitchen> thanks for stopping by... they are good aren't they and your husband will love the deep fried version. You do biscuits in your part of the south? I had never heard of her version.. must have been particular to Lookout Mountain, TN!

Faith said...

What a gorgeous, unique recipe! Experimentation with new foods in the kitchen is something I could do all day, every day. Would you believe I've never had morels? I'll definitely be on the lookout for them now, though. By the way, I love your 18th century pewter plate!

Deana Sidney said...

Faith> thanks Faith! It is fun to play with new things... it was great to get the chance to be in the contest. The plate was a great Ebay find...not too expensive and so much history... and so much smaller than plates today!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

What a fabulous recipe! I am in love with the pie crust 'cookie' idea too. Good luck with the contest!

Loved the thinking cap - I could use one of those to help me find some wild morels ;)

Velva said...

Now, this looks like some great morel dishes. Thanks for sharing. You are reminding me how much I love mushrooms.

I hope you win the fresh morels.

Cathy said...

What a delectable dish! I love mushrooms and this looks scrumptious.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

There is something earthy and delicious about morels that I just can't resist. I will always order a dish in a restaurant that contains morels, but I've actually never cooked with them myself. I'm going to hunt down the dry variety to start.

Linda said...

Deana my mouth is watering! Your pics are spectacular!Everything looks amazing and I adore morels!
I hope you win...:*
I love the pie crust cookie idea...I am going to try that as well!

Sue said...

Thanks for the great recipes and link to the Morels website. Like you I have an old book on the wild ones here in the UK. We are lucky enough to have them growing in the fields around our house but we have to pick them early!

Deana Sidney said...

Savoring>Those cookies are a lifesaver... you are only minutes away from dessert with them! I wish I had a thinking cap too!
Velva> Aren't mushrooms the best? I have always been afraid to pick them... sure I'll get a poisonous one!
Cathy> It's good and verrrryyyy rich!
TW> Thanks so much for stopping by.. love your blog. They are all around the markets these days... ever try the mushroom guy at Union Sq?
Linda> you will remember me in your prayers for the pie crust cookies... thanks for the good wishes on the contest... I never win things like that!
Sue> Thanks.. I am jealous that you have wild ones in your fields.. how lucky you are!

Tasty Trix said...

You said unctuous, devastating, and shatteringly in the same post, therefore I adore you! (Well, I already did, but this really cemented it.)

Deana Sidney said...

Trix> you know I always worry I'm sounding like I'm having an affair with a thesaurus... but I'm glad you are amused. When I was a kid, aside from "Dino the Dinosaur" (not nice--I was a large girl) , my other name was the "Walking Dictionary". I still like words... but I like playing with food more now!

Y said...

Mmmm morels! Such a pity these aren't easily available here, in their fresh state.

funkiefoodie said...

I have been busy with gardening and am late to thank you for thinking of me with this honor. Thank you! I visited awhile back but had to run before commenting. Morels! I find them and it feels like finding treasure. The smoky flavour does it for me. BC is prime foraging after all the burns we've had. I stay away from the areas where fire retardants have been dropped, going for the natural burns far from interfaced fires.

Your posts are a highlight! Multiple layers that stimulate and entice, rich with esoteric detail. Much appreciated.