As fleeting as ramps, as spring-fever-inducing as fiddlehead ferns, and as pricey as a tankful of gas, fresh wild morels have swooped into town. Café Boulud’s Bertrand Chemel’s advice is to wash them carefully (to remove any sand) and cook them simply with herbs and cream to enhance but not mask with their supreme mushroom flavor. Serve them as a side dish with beef, lamb, and poultry, or, for a double dose of springtime delight, spoon over blanched asparagus.
Bertrand Chemel’sMorel Fricassee
20 oz. fresh morels (available at Truffette, 104 Ave. B, nr. 7th St.)
2 teaspoons white vinegar
3 sprigs tarragon
1 sprig thyme
2 bay leaves, dry or fresh
3 sage leaves, fresh
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled and trimmed
Salt and ground black pepper
1/3 cup dry vermouth
1/2 cup heavy cream
5 sprigs chervil
Trim morel stems at bottom of caps and discard stems.
(1) Rinse the caps in up to five changes of cold water combined with the white vinegar. Shake morels well in the water, then pat dry on a towel. With butcher string, tie together the sprig of thyme, the bay and sage leaves, and one of the sprigs of tarragon to make a small herb bouquet. In a large, deep sauté pan over low heat, melt the butter.
(2) Finely chop shallots and add to pan with herb bouquet and cook, stirring, approximately two minutes. Add morels, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and continue to cook over medium heat another two minutes or so. Add the vermouth, and stir well to deglaze. Cover and continue cooking approximately three minutes.
(3) Add the cream, and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. Adjust seasoning, and remove the herb bouquet. Stem remaining tarragon sprigs and the chervil, and sprinkle leaves over the morels.