Last week I went to see my friends Jane and John at The East End Mushroom Company. Since the last time I saw them, they have been growing by leaps and bounds. They now sell 13 varieties of mushrooms at their state-of-the-art facility on Cox Lane in Cutchogue. They’ve gone from growing Shiitakes, Miatakes and Oyster Mushrooms to carrying a whole collection including such delicacies as White/Brown Beech, Velvet Pioppini and King Oyster varieties along with more familiar Criminis and Portobellos. The mushroom that caught my eye on this visit was the Morel. (You can keep abreast with all the couple has to offer by liking their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheEastEndMushroomCompany?fref=ts)
Morels are highly prized with a unique honeycomb look. What really sets them apart is their earthy, nutty flavor, which is pretty well irresistible to any mushroom lover. They are foraged in the Midwestern United States and so coveted that families there keep their favorite locations a secret. Morels only appear for a limited time each year but thankfully the East End Mushroom Company ‘imported’ them this year for local consumption.
|Fresh or Dried, wash Morels carefully.|
Out of season, one can rely on dried morels imported from France and India. The French ‘morilles’ are larger and more uniform than their Indian counterparts and their flavor is more intense. But there’s nothing wrong with the Indian imports. In both countries, morels are dried over wood fires, so they differ from fresh morels having a somewhat smoky flavor. They are a perfectly good substitute for those many months of the year when fresh morels are not available. I’ve included the instructions for using dried Morels should you stumble upon this post out of season. Fresh or dried, Morels must be washed carefully because their honeycomb heads hold sand and soil.
As I was sorting through recipes, several parings appeared consistently. One was the use of Madeira and the other was heavy cream. This combination seemed very seductive to me so I tinkered with a recipe from Gourmet from 2001 and came up with this wonderful dish. It is a perfect starter or side dish to a great steak dinner. The Brioche toast could have its crusts trimmed if you would prefer a more polished presentation but I wanted every delicious crumb of the bread so I left mine intact. Here is the recipe:
Recipe for Morel Mushrooms in Cream on Brioche (Morilles à la Crème) adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Makes 4 servings
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound fresh morels, trimmed, washed well, and patted dry
4 tbsp. Madeira
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Freshly ground white pepper
5 thin slices brioche or challah bread, crusts discarded, each slice cut into 4 triangles and toasted
1. Heat cream in a small saucepan until hot.
2. Heat butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté morels, stirring frequently, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the Madeira and cook until it is absorbed into the morels. Sprinkle in flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
3. Stir in hot cream and reduce heat to low. Gently simmer, covered, stirring once, until morels are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper.
4. Arrange 5 toasts on each of 4 plates and spoon morels and sauce on top. Serve immediately.
Cooks’ note: You can substitute 1 ounce small dried morels (1 1/3 cups) for the fresh. Soak dried morels in 2 1/2 cups warm water until softened, 10 to 30 minutes. Lift from soaking liquid, then rinse well and pat dry with paper towels. Pour soaking liquid through a paper-towel–lined sieve into a bowl. Add 1/2 cup soaking liquid to cream when heating (dried morels absorb more liquid than fresh).