Monday, June 14, 2010

Smurf houses, $17/pound

Mushrooms are kind of a love-hate thing, aren't they? I know many people can't really take the texture--cooked or raw--and I've been known to turn up my nose at the flavor of a few more exotic types. And the smell of dried mushrooms? That pungent aroma (I'm being kind) has repelled me in outdoor markets, often, whether Chinatown  in NYC or Penang, Malaysia.

But living here in Walla Walla, one can't help but hear about morels every spring. There are the avid hunters who won't give up their prize spots to which they return to each year, as well as more casual gatherers who use the excuse just to get the family out in the early spring air. They are precious little morsels, too, with the average per-pound price being between $15 and $20--husband saw a sign for $17 on our way to Joseph, so we're quoting that as the local going rate. A week or so ago I was with a girlfriend downtown and saw someone (a mushroom farmer?) carrying a trug of morels into a local restaurant and we both raised our eyebrows in a knowing "I'll look the other way if you want to mug him" way. No words needed.

My one caveat, however, would be that I might not know what to do with that many mushrooms. Morels--for me--aren't like asparagus or blueberries, where I can eat them/it at every meal for a month (or two), in a dozen different ways, and not get tired of the flavor. I need morels maybe three or four times a season and I'm good. But when I have them, I do so enjoy the experience!

The first time I had morels I don't think I even knew I was having them. It was down at a lovely restaurant in Pendleton, Ore., Raphael's, and there is an appetizer, Wild Mushrooms in a Sour Cream and Sherry Sauce, that is simply delicious. It's a mixture of a number of mushroom types, with a light, tangy cream sauce, and they give you bread to dip into the sauce. Frankly, it's divine. Many times I have wanted to order a double helping, just for me. But being the dainty lass that I am, I settle for sharing. Sigh. It's a heavy burden, this daintiness.

But, when you make the sauce at home, who needs to be dainty? A-ha! There's the ticket. Coming back from our weekend jaunt, I was bound and determined to make something as close to the revered Raphael appetizer, and had toyed around with this recipe before. Once again, it did not disappoint. We enjoyed the sauce over steak, with parsley mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus. Spring on a plate.

Mushroom cream sauce
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 onion or 6 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups of chopped mushrooms--morels, buttons and/or crimini
1/4 cup Madeira or dry sherry
1 cup cream
1 Tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1/2 tsp grated fresh nutmeg
Salt and pepper to season

Heat a saucepan over medium heat and melt butter. Add the onions/shallots and garlic and saute until soft and wilted, 3-4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute an additional 10 minutes. Next, add the Madeira or sherry and bring to a simmer for three minutes. Add the cream and boil until the mixture has reduced by a third. Stir the cornstarch and stock together in a separate small bowl and add to the cream sauce; cook until thickened. Before serving, add the chives, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

See what I mean about Smurf houses? Can't you just see Smurfette coming around the corner of the house, waving? OK,  maybe it's just me.

This was our biggest find, maybe four inches high, with stem cut off.

Sorry for the rather blurry snapped photo of the finished sauce over steak. I think I must have been extra eager to get to my supper!

Many great morel recipes can be found online. My post from last spring was of the fried variety, which we all quite enjoyed. Next up, I've thought of making soup, though most of the recipes I find seem like a watered down version of this sauce; maybe I'll just skip the soup and go get a big baguette to finish off the leftovers!


  1. Who knew Smurfette lived in such a high-rent district?

    I've got an excellent mushroom soup recipe (Williams-Sonoma or Wolfgang Puck; I can't remember) and if I can dig it up (haha) I'll send it to you. I've never had such a delicious mushroom soup.

    The sauce sounds like something I would looooove. Nummers.

  2. Very good...looks wonderful. And as for the Smurfs...well, it does look like it could house a Smurf family but I have always imagined a tiny tinkerbell sitting on the roof, sliding down and slipping in the side door. When she goes in the whole thing lights up! Can't you see it?

  3. Speaking of Smurfette, did you notice she was the only girl out of the whole bunch? Kinda weird. Anyways, that looks great! I should know better than to read your blog when I'm hungry. Now I'm even hungrier!! ;)

    Have a great day!!



Blogger Template By Designer Blogs