Nature’s Gifts

Flowers, chocolate, a nice bottle of wine, all are gifts that I receive with pleasure.  But this week, I’ve gotten two really special presents that are out of the ordinary,  a huge sack of morels and porcini straight from the forest,

and a bunch of jewel-like sweet spring onions fresh from the garden.  For a cook, there’s really no gift more exciting than a fun ingredient to work with, and so these onions went directly into a heavenly  frittata with some Comté cheese and a bit of Salumi’s mole salami.

The mushrooms led me to the bookcase, wanting to make the very most of this unusual bounty.  And there I rediscovered a book that I’d been thinking would be a giveaway candidate.  It’s called Sides: Over 150 Enticing Accompaniments That Make The Meal, by Melicia Phillips.  If you’re a personal chef or a caterer you definitely need this book, and if you’re a cook who scratches her head over pairing sides with main dishes, or just likes a wide variety of excellent side dishes, this book is for you.  But you can’t have mine, because now that I’ve had a good look through it again, I realize that I need to get back in the habit of using it often.  But I will share one excellent dish with you, while it’s still mushroom season.

This luxurious medley of mushrooms won’t win any beauty contests, but I swear, made from a mix of morels and porcini, paired with a good steak it was about the best mushroom dish I’ve ever eaten.  If you’re a forager, or know one, grab yourself a big bowl of the forest’s finest and prepare for a treat.

Wild Mushrooms with Armagnac and Cream
(inspired by a recipe in Sides)

Start with about 4 cups of mushrooms. Fill a large bowl with cold water, add 1/4 cup of salt, and swish until the salt is dissolved.  Rinse morels, cut them in half lengthwise, and soak them in the salted water for 2 hours.  This will get any bugs and worms out of your mushrooms, and will not harm the texture of the finished dish one bit.  After 2 hours, drain the morels and slice the porcini.

1 T butter
1 T olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
2 T Armagnac, or brandy
3/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a large skillet and add the drained morels and sliced porcini.  Cover the pan and sweat the mushrooms over gentle heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they’re tender and swimming in a bit of their liquid.   Remove the lid, and continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced to practically nothing.

Add the olive oil and the garlic and fry the mushrooms until they’re lightly golden, only about 3-4 minutes.  Add the Armagnac or brandy, cream, salt, and pepper, and simmer until the cream is reduced to a very thick sauce that coats the mushrooms, another 3-4 minutes.  Eat rhapsodically.

News From The Mixing Bowl – We Have a Winner! The winner of the absolutely fair and random name-drawing for Butter, Sugar, Flour, Eggs is Brother Mark.  I’ll be contacting you for shipping information, and my thanks to the rest of you for entering.

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6 Comments on “Nature’s Gifts”

  1. Debra Lane Says:

    wonderful! Last year Dusty brought me home Morels from a guy at work on several occasions. Jonathan’s dad gets huge amounts of chanterelles. I really want to find out where to go foraging. LOVE mushrooms!

  2. Margaret Pilgrim Says:

    “Eat rhapsodically.” Indeed. Morels in cream, maybe some chicken, maybe vin jaune, have been on my radar for several months now. As soon as I can rationaize the calories and (blink) 4 cups of said mushrooms!

    In the meantime, LUST!

  3. Rebecca Says:

    It’s so good to learn that you are finding the adventure in culling those books- and this dish looks so toothsome and plain DELICIOUS.
    Thank you so much for continuing to share your good thoughts and life with us here- your posts are always worth seeing, emotive, informative and lovely.
    I wonder if this would meld well with a plate of semolina pollici. I’m uncertain if I can get those particular mushroom varieties, but I have a tiny bottle of brandy here, and 2 pounds of semolina just waiting to be made into something chewy and covered in a creamy sauce, there are both butter and heavy cream in the freezer- I think that I am going to attempt this on Sunday!

  4. Wolfgang Says:

    YUMM, this sauce is one of my top notch add ons on an Entrecote from a Charolais, it tops any what ever good Sauce Bernaisè pour moi.

    Never I will forget an Trip to Scotland in Pitlochry where the wild Chantarelle where abundant. Comment of natives”That is inedible weed”. another story 😉

  5. Brother Mark Says:

    Thank you – I’m honored, and I promise to make something and send you pictures!

  6. Brother Mark Says:

    BTW, Morels are the best! My Lance used to make Beef Wellingtons in a morel sauce that was amazing. The only mushrooms I ever enjoyed eating!


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