Thursday, May 7, 2009

Morels: A Spring Indulgence

I walked past the mushroom vendor at the farmer's market last week, and I stopped dead in my tracks. It had been about a year since I last bought morels. Their season is short and at 15$-30$ per pound, I usually buy them just once a season.

We had been out of town for a week, so I was at the farmer's market stocking up. I think I was feeling a little deprived after a week of no cooking, so I didn't even think twice about snatching up some of these beauties. I even decided on 2 bags. If I was going to indulge, I figured I should just go for it.

Morels are spongy creatures with lots of nooks and crannies to soak up juices. They would be great in a sauce to spoon over veal chops or in a bright spring vegetable ragout. But I figured that this would be my one morel buying experience of the year, and I don't think there is a better way to indulge in morel extravagance than to have them roasted and bathed in a creamy sauce.

The morels are first roasted in a hot oven with some garlic and thyme until they are tender and have given off their juices. Then a mixture of shallot, lemon and creme fraiche is added and roasted a bit longer. The brightness from the lemon and creme fraiche is the perfect match for the earthy morels.

We ate these with some crusty bread to sop up the juices while swaying on our new backyard swing. It's good to be home.

Roasted Morels
adapted from The Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook

1 shallot, peeled and finely diced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 tablespoon Cognac or Brandy
1/2 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
Juice of 1/4 of a lemon
Salt and Pepper
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
1/2 pound fresh morel mushrooms
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
2 garlic cloves sliced

Preheat the oven to 400F

Saute the shallot in butter over medium heat until nicely browned. Add the Cognac and reduce for 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and add the Champagne vinegar and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the creme fraiche and set aside.

Pick over the mushrooms, discarding any that are moldy and trimming the ends and any discolored spots. Slice lengthwise into strips about 1/4 inch wide. Rinse the morels well by covering them with water and swishing around. Let the grit settle for a few seconds then scoop the mushrooms out into a strainer leaving the grit in the bottom of the bowl. Repeat if necessary. Toss the morels in a bowl with the olive oil, thyme, garlic and salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking dish large enough to hold the mushrooms in one layer.

Roast the morels uncovered until they are tender, about 20 minutes, stirring a few times during cooking. By the end of the cooking, there will be lovely juices to incorporate into the sauce. Add the shallot mixture to the mushrooms, stir well, and continue cooking for 3-4 minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning.

Serve the morels with some crusty bread, spooned over some grilled bread or along side some roasted meat.

Serves 2


  1. It's morel time in MN as well. Scoping out Farmer;s Market tomorrow to see the prices Lovely recipe. It really is spring, isn't it?

  2. Claudia,
    Yes, we are well into Spring here. There were cherries, apricots and white peaches at the farmer's market last weekend!

  3. over for morel season here in Virginia - not as abundant as last year. We've got the perfect division of labor in our house: he hunts them, I cook them. We both eat.