It is Spring and in April and early May on the prairie, one finds many mushrooms. Mushroom hunting takes place on weekends or after dinner. And the mushroom we're all hunting?
In our youth, we were part of the mushroom gatherers. Now, we're content to let the gathering be done by the next generation. We are happy, however, to be the recipient of any and all morels.
A favorite recipe is chicken with morels -- from Ina Garten. Her recipe calls for dried morels which in my opinion are pricey, have to be reconstituted and do not have the flavor of freshly gathered morels.
With a nice "mess" of morels given to us by a friend, dinner of choice is that chicken. It's good, it's easy and we wish that mushroom season lasted a bit longer for this is a spectacular dish. As Thanksgiving is turkey, so spring is chicken with morels. We relish it as many times as we can during morel season.
After one of our spring rains, morels often carpet the forest floor.
The good thing about morels is that unlike other mushrooms there is no "bad" (or poisonous) mushroom that resembles a morel. So if you think it is a morel, it is.
The recipe, from Barefoot in Paris cookbook. Given as printed. My only substitutions were fresh mushrooms which I did not soak and sour cream for cream fraiche (not often found on the prairie)
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Freshly ground black pepper
All purpose flour, for dredging
1/4 cup clarified butter
1/3 cup chopped shallots (2 large)
1 T. minced garlic (3 cloves)
1 cup Madeira wine
1 cup creme fraiche
1 cup heavy cream
2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat oven to 375
Soak morels for 30 minutes in 3 cups very hot water. Carefully lift them from the water, leaving behind any grit. Rinse gently several times to make certain all the grit has been removed. Dry morels on towel and discard liquid.
Season the flour with salt and pepper before dredging the chicken breasts. In a large saute pan, add half the butter and cook the chicken breasts on medium low to brown. This should take 8 to 10 minutes. When browned, place chicken breasts in casserole dish and set aside.
Leaving the drippings in the saute pan, stir in the remaining butter. Add the shallots, morels and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the Madeira. Turn the heat to high and reduce volume by half. This should take anywhere from 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in the creme fraiche, the heavy cream, lemon juice and a tsp. of salt and 3/4 t. pepper. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Pour the sauce on the chicken in the casserole dish and bake till heated through (15 minutes or so). Serve immediately.