Spring Morel Dinner

Farro with Morels and Spring Vegetables

Those of you who know us are aware that DD’s been an avid mushroom forager for a couple of years now.  Through our friend Brian, DD became the proud owner of the seminal Mushrooms Demystified, Mycologist David Arora’s 976-page tome on possibly everything you may want or wish to know about mushrooms in the U.S.A., with a focus on the West Coast.  DD also has Arora’s pocket-book-sized version, All the Rain Promises and More, and has liked it so much as an introduction to mushroom study that he’s given it as a gift on several occasions.  Over the past 2.5 years, my husband has lovingly and obsessively pored over these now dog-eared books, and is pretty much able to identify many fungi based on observed characteristics (cap colour, kinds of gills, whether it stains when bruised, smell, etc.).  DD has successfully foraged for our favourites – Porcini, Chanterelles, black trumpet mushrooms, even Matsutake and many other not-so-prized specimens in-between.  Morels have been his white whale, and until this past weekend, efforts to find them have proved sorely unfruitful.  But, thanks to Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, DD finally struck morel gold on Saturday.

DD's first morel haul

These were beautiful, large, and perfect.  And we made sure to use them over the weekend as I’ve been trying to be better about cooking more lately.  Weekdays are definitely the toughest.  There’s nothing like getting home after an hourlong commute at 7:30pm and then having to figure out what to eat for dinner.  The default: arguing and bargaining over which restaurant in the rotation would get our business for the evening.  So lately I’ve been trying to cook a lot of large meals over the weekend that yield leftovers to last us the work week.  It takes a little advance plotting and scheming but the results have been great.  I love being able to come home knowing that we can take the puppy out for some park time rather than trying to cook or figure out where dinner is coming from since there’s food already in the fridge.  And I’ve been trying to keep things varied by making dishes from at least two different areas of the world – one Western, and one Asian-themed menu.

Farmer's Market Haul

This is part of this week’s shopping from our Inner Sunset Sunday Farmer’s Market (so lucky to live only a block away).  Without looking too hard I found a fantastic-looking recipe courtesy of CUESA — a recipe from Spruce’s Mark Sullivan for Farrotto for Sherry-Braised Morels, Spring Onion, Green Garlic and Sweet Peas — basically a Farro risotto topped with a braise of spring vegetables.  I’d never cooked Farro before and found a pearled version at Falletti’s on Broderick.  This version cooks more quickly (around 20 minutes rather than 45) and I ended up using much less stock than the 6 cups called for (I did  use 2 cups of wine as directed).  Though the risotto turned out just fine, and tasted fantastic, in the future I may cut down the wine to 1 cup, and use more stock.  Definitely *do* use the creme fraiche as a finishing element to the grain.  And although I’m certainly not one to say no to pig or any pork product, I omitted the guanciale from the braise of veggies since I had planned a chicken dish (see below).

Stuffed Morels and Chicken Stewed in Vinegar

DD sought a recommendation from his mushroom buddy and mentor, Salabat and put together some delicious stuffed morels (cream and goat cheese, pecans, parsley, sun-dried tomatoes) basted liberally with butter.  Finally, I threw together a long-simmered stew of Chicken Thighs and Sausage with Red Peppers and Vinegar, from Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World.  Here’s a slightly similar recipe from Mr. Bittman, but the one in the book calls for balsamic (or red wine) vinegar, and includes sausage, red bell peppers and onion.  Basically you brown italian sausage, then chicken (I used 4 bone-in thighs), then add in the onions, butter, red bells and vinegar.  Once the chicken is cooked to your liking, remove the proteins and vegetables and let the sauce reduce, adding more butter and skimming fat if necessary.



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