It's what the first forty-niners must've felt like, "I've hit the mother lode!" All right under my feet and free for the taking. At the first sighting a of a precious, precious morel, I squatted down, not to rise again until my thighs were on fire. Before I could drop that first mushroom into my bag, I spotted another, and another, and another…My pulse quickened, I became giddy with excitement. Suddenly I was afraid to move for fear of trampling them. They were all around me!
Our previous morel hunts had varying degrees of success. We'd find onesies and twosies, but never anything like this. This time we collected well over two pounds of morels in just a couple of hours. Seared Rib-Eye Steaks & Steamed Asparagus with Morel Cream Sauce seemed like the perfect way to celebrate our haul. We stopped at a local market for steaks, asparagus, and wine and discovered that they were charging forty dollars a pound for morels. Boy, did I feel rich!
The morels we ate that night hardly made a dent in our stash. Here's how we made another dent…
1 ¼ quarts chicken broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces morel mushrooms, sliced into bite size pieces
1 shallot, minced
1 ¼ cups Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano rice
¼ cup white wine
1 sprig thyme
2 tablespoons heavy cream, optional
¼ cup grated Parmegiano-Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper
Bring the broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Heat a large, heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the oil and butter and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the morels and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until soft. Add the shallot and sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until soft. Add the rice and stir until coated with the oil. Add the wine and simmer, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until almost dry. Add enough hot broth to cover the rice by about half an inch, and simmer over medium heat, stirring almost constantly and adding more broth as necessary any time the rice looks dry, for 15 to 16 minutes, or until the rice is nearly cooked through. Stir in the cream, if desired, and simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the rice is cooked through. Discard the thyme sprig. Stir in the Parmegiano, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.
Serves 4. Fresh morels only appear in the spring, so make the most of their fleeting season while you can. The trick to cooking perfect risotto is to stir constantly and add only the amount of broth that the rice can absorb by the time it is cooked through. You can add plenty of broth at the beginning, but to ensure that the risotto doesn’t end up soupy, add just a ladleful at a time toward the end of the cooking time. When the risotto is done, it should be creamy and the grains of rice should still retain some chew, much like al dente pasta.