Monday, August 6, 2012

Morels and Scruples

Last weekend I ran into the Whole Foods to pick up some lunch stuff and came across mushroom gold: Fresh Morels.  I didn’t think, I just grabbed a package and walked directly over to the butcher counter to pick up some Strip Steak.

From my previous posting on Hen of the Woods mushrooms, you learned that I’m not a lover of the cheap and ubiquitous Button Mushroom.  Rather (unfortunately for the pocket, fortunately for the taste buds) I’ve developed a love of more expensive, harder to come by fungi. Did you enjoy that rhyme right there?

A little over four years ago I can across the Morel (pronounced more-ELLE, not like the thing people without scruples lack, which is pronounced MORE-el ) mushroom and was intrigued by it’s odd  spaceship like shape and the fact that The Husband was raving about them.  As The Husband and I had similar views on the Button and Portobello mushroom, and it was his birthday, I thought I would indulge him.

So I went searching The Net to find recipes that involved Morel Mushrooms. There are tons of fried Morel Mushroom recipes out there and while I have learned to appreciate fried food, I am not the type of person to make it in my house. Also, I’m a mess-maker and large quantities of boiling hot oil would not only end up all over my walls and stove, but would invariably make it to my arms and legs.

I came across a few  recipes for a Morel Mushroom and Cabernet Sauce, and thought that it would be perfect to put on top of a perfectly grilled New York Strip. So I decided to try it and it was perfection.  The earthiness of the mushrooms, paired really well with the cabernet sauce and the thyme added the perfect pick me up flavor. And of course, when it was poured over a medium rare Strip, BOOM! Heaven.

There have been very few times that I’ve found Morels fresh, I generally find them dried and even then, not that often; they are typically a late spring mushroom.  You should be aware, the fresh Morels I picked up, about 6 oz., were roughly $20. I also have 6 oz. of dried Morels sitting in my apartment, those were $15. The fresh really really REALLY do taste that much better though.

The other key to this, make sure the wine you’re using is good wine. People always go cheap on cooking wines, and I can tell you from experience, don't. The quality of your ingredients ALWAYS makes a difference. Open a bottle of wine that you wouldn’t mind drinking alongside the mushrooms.  If you don’t want to go crazy expensive, Beringer makes a Founders Estate Cabernet that I’ve found for between $6-$10 a bottle.  It’s a solid drinking wine and works well in this sauce.  We went a little more upscale for this batch and changed the varietal up, we had a Londer Pinot Noir. But for the sake of this recipe and integrity, I'm giving you the Cab recipe. When you've done it a few times and have the hang of the flavor profiles, I invite you to change up the wines you use. It really does change the flavors. 

I generally make my Morel Cabernet sauce and pair it with either a Beef Strip or a Buffalo Stip, both have great flavor and honestly it just depends on what I'm feeling like at the time. Last weekend, it was dry aged Strip, next time it could be grass fed Buffalo.  And I generally make it with Roasted Asparagus and a Purple Potato Smash, I mean, if I’m making a steak dinner, I’m not half-assing it.

Honestly though, you could throw this sauce over some regular old mashed potatoes and just eat it that way. The Morels are meaty enough. Do not prepare this sauce a head of time!

1 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 package of Morel Mushrooms (generally come in 4 or 6 oz.), washed.
3 cloves of garlic, minced
½  cup of GOOD (you want to drink this stuff) Cabernet Sauvignon
½ cup of Beef Broth
2 TBS Butter
2 TSP fresh Thyme, washed and leaves removed from the stalks
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the mushrooms in the olive oil over high heat until they are tender, this should be about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and brown lightly. Toss in the Cabernet and deglaze the pan (this means get all of the little pieces of garlic and mushroom up off the bottom and stir it in with the wine). Add the beef stock and reduce the heat the medium.  Let the sauce cook for about 5 minutes, this should reduce the amount of liquid you have in the pan, that is what we’re looking for. Add the butter and thyme and stir until the butter is melted. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. If you think it needs salt and pepper, add it now.  If I do add it (which isn’t always) I’ll generally add a tiny punch of salt (because the broth makes it salty enough), but I always do add a bit of fresh ground black pepper.

Take the sauce and pour it directly over whatever you are serving it on. Don’t put this one in a gravy boat, just toss it on top and go to town!

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