I Called the Produce Guy So You Don’t Have To.

This post, by one of the Columbus food bloggers that I follow religiously, inspired me to move into a new territory: morels. Every Spring for the seven years (!) that I’ve been employed at the store, the produce guy announces the arrival of the nutty, meaty mushroom. While I’ve always enjoyed the flavor of the mushroom in other people’s dishes, I’ve been nervous to attempt to cook something that costs over $40 per pound.

morel1

Until last night. It’s been a long several weeks and I needed a treat. I went to the ever trustworthy Epicurious to find a recipe and came away with Fettucine with Morels, Asparagus and Goat Cheese from the May 1992 issue of Gourmet. I picked this recipe because I love butter. And heavy cream. And chicken stock. And wine. And, well, just about every ingredient in it.

As soon as the morels were in my cart, I developed a very dangerous “Oh Screw It” attitude and decided to add some seafood to the mixture. (“Oh Screw It” as in, “I’m already buying morels and goat cheese, why not also pay for some amazing looking scallops, as well?”) I picked up scallops, a lemon and some tarragon. I’d figure out what to do with those when I got home.

I was almost ready to start when I was hit with a wall of terror after reading the following: 1/2 pound fresh morels (available seasonally at specialty produce markets and some supermarkets), washed well, patted dry, and trimmed. All of a sudden, I remembered a previous conversation with the produce guy, with him asking me if I knew how to prepare and trim morels.

I didn’t.

So I called him at home.

“I need to know how to prepare morels,” I told him, after an apology and my getting over the initial shock of realizing that the produce guy does have a home and doesn’t live in the produce department like I’d thought all these years.

Here’s how you prepare morels:

#1. Cut them in half.

#2. Put them in salt water to kill anything that you wouldn’t want to digest.

#3. Cut off any dark part of the stem that may be turning. (But not too much; the produce guy says that the entire mushroom is edible and you don’t want to waste any part of it.)

morel2

Done and done. The rest of the meal was simple. I swapped jasmine rice for the fettuccine, as Baseball Boy is avoiding gluten these days. I didn’t have the vinegar for the scallops, so I just doubled the white wine for the Tarragon Butter Sauce. (Doubling wine fixes anything, right?)

The end result was a lovely and filling meal. This morning, when the produce guy asked how everything turned out, I excitedly told him about the dish.

His response: “Could you even taste the morels?”

Turns out that he’s a purist. Next time, perhaps I’ll try something a little more minimalist. (Next time, I hope, I won’t have to call him at home.) Nonetheless, I’m no longer afraid of the morel.

Fettuccine with Morels, Asparagus and Goat Cheese
Adapted from Gourmet, May 1992
Serves 4-6

1/2 cup minced shallot
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth [use veg broth for vegetarian version]
1/2 pound fresh morels (available seasonally at specialty produce markets and some supermarkets), washed well, patted dry, and trimmed
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 ounces mild goat cheese such as Montrachet, crumbled (about 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 pound asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, and cooked in boiling salted water for 2 to 3 minutes, or until tender
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
2 cups jasmine rice

1. Clean morels as advised above.

2. Cook jasmine rice. Set aside.

2. In a heavy skillet cook the shallot in the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until it is softened, add the wine, and simmer the mixture until the wine is reduced by half. Add the broth and the morels, sliced crosswise, and simmer the mixture, covered, for 10 minutes, or until the morels are tender. Add the cream and the goat cheese and cook the mixture over low heat, stirring, until the cheese is melted. Stir in the asparagus, the chives, and salt and pepper to taste and keep the sauce warm. Top the rice with the sauce.

Seared Scallops with Tarragon-Butter Sauce
Adapted from Gourmet, March 2008
Serves 4

1 1/4 pounds large sea scallops, tough ligament from side of each discarded
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, divided
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
1/4 cup dry white wine (I didn’t have on hand; you should probably use this if you have it.)
1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon

1. Pat scallops dry and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper (total).

2. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then sear scallops, turning once, until golden brown and just cooked through, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to a platter.

3. Add shallot, wine, and vinegar to skillet and boil, scraping up brown bits, until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Add juices from platter and if necessary boil until liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Reduce heat to low and add 3 tablespoons butter, stirring until almost melted, then add remaining 3 tablespoons butter and swirl until incorporated and sauce has a creamy consistency. Stir in tarragon and salt to taste; pour sauce over scallops.

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