This week I had a really hard time deciding what ingredient to feature. I had many good options after visiting the DuPont Circle Farmer's Market on Sunday. The DuPont market is really fantastic; there are numerous vendors and an abundance of wonderful products. After some debate and several purchases, I decided on morel mushrooms.
Morel mushrooms are cone-shaped and have a sponge-like or honeycomb cap. They range in color and size. Darker morels have a smokier, nuttier, and earthier flavor. Wild morel mushrooms are available between April and June, but cultivated morels can be purchased year-round. It is best to consume morels as soon as possible after purchase. However, If not using immediately, place the mushrooms in a paper bag and store in a cool location for up to 48 hours. Never store morels in plastic, they need to breathe.
Morels should be cooked, not eaten raw. They can be cooked in butter and enjoyed alone or added to dishes such as soup, quiche, pasta or risotto. However, it is best to include them in simple dishes so their flavor is not lost.
Morel and Asparagus Sandwiches with Poached Egg
Adapted from Martha StewartServes 2-4
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch asparagus
4oz small morel mushrooms
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 tbp heavy cream
4 tsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tbp fresh lemon juice
4 slices rustic bread
Begin by cleaning and slicing the morels. There are differing schools of thought on how to clean these mushrooms. However, many authors call for limited use of water during cleaning. I quickly rinsed my morels in cool water and laid them to dry on a paper towel. Gently wiping the mushrooms with a damp paper towel was another commonly cited method. Once dry, I sliced the mushrooms in halves or quarters, depending on the size.
While the morels are drying, rinse and trim the asparagus, rinse and chop the parsley, and place the ricotta in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.
Place the butter and oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute before adding the morels and chicken stock. When the stock has come to a simmer, cover and cook for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, uncover and add the cream and cook and additional 1 to 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice, parsley, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover and remove from heat.
To poach the eggs, bring 3 to 4 cups water to a gentle simmer in a shallow saucepan or skillet. (To produce a somewhat neat looking egg you will need a mold to hold the egg as it cooks. I use a metal cookie cutter.) Place the mold in the pan and pour the egg inside the cutter. Cook the egg for approximately 3 minutes. Keep an eye on your water, don't let it boil. Repeat until all eggs are cooked.
While the egg is cooking, toast the bread and spread the ricotta mixture on top. Place asparagus spears and morel sauce on top. Once cooked, remove the egg from the water with a slotted spoon and place on top of the asparagus. Martha Stewart recommends placing the eggs on a paper towel lined plate to dry before plating. I tried this technique but found it to be a royal pain in the butt. I would gently dab away any excess water with a paper towel when transferring the egg from the pan. Once plated, dig in and enjoy.
Overall, I enjoyed this dish. The ricotta, egg yolks, and asparagus complemented each other nicely and the morel sauce had a nice earthy flavor. As for the morels themselves, I wasn’t wowed. I would be curious to try morels simply cooked in butter.
I am a bit frustrated that my poached eggs look nothing like the ones I get in restaurants. I think I need some special tools if I am ever going to produce a picture perfect poached egg.