It’s The Great Morel, Charlie Brown

May 31, 2013 § Leave a comment

Did I ever tell you about the time I went Morel Hunting in Michigan?  I felt like a character right out of  A Year In Provence.  Michigan is a wonderful region for finding delicious, exquisite morels.  So I decided to have my niece, Mallory, tag along (she was probably 7 years old).  We met a group of Mushroom Hunters at the local K-Mart parking lot where we began our caravan to the perfect spot for morels.  Funny thing, it was right down the country road from Mallory’s house in a State Forest.  Virgins to the hunt, I had equipped us with cute little baskets to carry our treasures away only to discover the basket should have a cover in case you trip and the morels fly out of the basket.  Oops.  Now, where do we find them…look for a dead or dying elm (there’s no guarantee to find morels near a dying elm), an old apple orchard, if the soil is too wet it’s not good, if the soil is too dry it’s not good, look for perfect conditions (what does that mean?).  Believe it or not, we did walk away with a few morels in our baskets and Uncle Jerry sauteed them up perfectly in rich creamy butter…YUM!russell2

I have a few recipes to share.  My first time cooking with morels was when I catered a dinner party for my friend Allison over 20 years ago.  She hated cooking, but loved great food and was a big fan of my cooking.  The main course was the chicken dish I’m sharing here.  I think this is a recipe that has stood the test of time.  The risotto recipe is in honor of my friend Pam who inspired me to make risotto for the first time using my good old New Basics Cookbook.  That book has wine stains and ripped pages…one to pass on to my daughter or son one day.   And the polenta is for Gina, Suzanne, Meredith and many trips to Nob Hill Cafedivorare!

Chicken with Morels


  • 1 ounce dried morels, soaked for 30 minutes in 3 cups very hot water (I use fresh morels when in season)
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 1⁄4 cup clarified butter
  • 1⁄3 cup chopped shallots (2 large)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1 cup Madeira wine
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) creme fraiche
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Lift the morels carefully from the hot water in order to leave any grit behind in the liquid. Rinse a few times to be sure all the grittiness is gone. Discard the liquid and dry the morels lightly with paper towels. Set aside.

Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Dredge them in flour and shake off the excess. Heat half the clarified butter in a large saute pan and cook the chicken in 2 batches over medium-low heat until browned on both sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to an ovenproof casserole.

Add the rest of the clarified butter to the pan along with the shallots, drained morels, and garlic. Saute over medium heat for 2 minutes, tossing and stirring constantly. Pour the Madeira into the pan and reduce the liquid by half over high heat, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the creme fraiche, cream, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3⁄4 teaspoon pepper. Boil until the mixture starts to thicken, 5 to 10 minutes. Pour the sauce over the chicken and bake for 12 minutes, or until the chicken is heated through. To make ahead, refrigerate the chicken and sauce in the casserole and reheat slowly on top of the stove.


Morel Risotto

  •  4 cups Homemade Chicken Stock
  •  2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  •  1/4 cup chopped shallots
  •  1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  •  1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  •  1/2 pound morel mushrooms, halved lengthwise
  •  1 cup uncooked Carnaroli or Arborio rice or other medium-grain rice
  •  1/4 cup dry vermouth
  •  1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh pecorino Romano cheese
  •  1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  •  2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1. Bring Homemade Chicken Stock to a simmer in a small saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots, onion, and thyme to pan; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add mushrooms; cook 1 minute. Add rice; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in vermouth; cook 30 seconds or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Stir in 1 cup stock; cook 4 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring frequently. Add remaining stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of stock is absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes total). Add cheese, cream, salt, and pepper; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat; top with chives.


Mushroom and Sunchoke Sauté


  • 2 pounds assorted mushrooms such as chanterelle, porcini, portabella, morel, shiitake, or common white and brown
  • 1/2 pound sunchokes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves or 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • Salt and pepper


1. Trim off any soil caked onto mushrooms. Trim and discard discolored stem ends and tough stems of shiitakes. Quickly immerse the mushrooms in water, swishing them around to release soil and insects, then lift from water and drain.

2. Cut large mushrooms into about 1-inch pieces; leave the small mushrooms whole.

3. Peel and coarsely chop sunchokes.

4. In a 5- to 6-quart pan over high heat, combine oil, butter, mushrooms, sunchokes, shallots, and garlic. Stir often until mushroom juices evaporate and the vegetables are browned, about 15 minutes.

5. Add rosemary, oregano, and sherry; stir until sherry evaporates, about 2 minutes.

6. Spoon vegetables into a serving dish. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Note:  Sunchokes are also called Jerusalem artichokes. If making up to 1 day ahead, cover and chill. To reheat, stir over medium heat until hot, about 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh rosemary or oregano sprigs.


Polenta with sautéed morels, sunchoke chips and herbed oil



  • 1 L (4 1/4 cups) water
  • 250 ml (1 cup) regular polenta
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) salt

In a large pot, bring water to a boil with salt and garlic, turn down heat and simmer 15 mins or until garlic is tender. Remove the garlic, puré and return to the pot. Bring water back to a boil then add nutmeg and polenta in a thin stream, whisking. Cook over moderate heat, whisking for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer polenta for 45 minutes, covered, stirring regularly. Remove from heat and serve warm.

Sunchoke chips


  • 250 gr (1/2 pound) sunchokes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 125 ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil for frying
  • salt to taste

Fry the sliced sunchokes in very hot oil until golden brown. Remove to a paper towel and dust with salt.

Sautéed morels


  • 500 gr (1 pound) fresh morels
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
  • 125 ml (4 tbsp) dry Jerez
  • salt and pepper

Clean the surface of the morels as best you can. Slice in half lengthwise and clean inside. Rinse well and drain.

In the skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add the morels. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the moisture has almost completely evaporated, approx 20 mins. Add Jerez and cook, stirring until absorbed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.

Herbed oil


  • 125 ml (4 tbsp) sunflower oil or safflower oil
  • handful of chervil
  • handful of chives

Wash and dry the herbs. Place the herbs and oil together and a blender and process until puréed. Strain the mixture through a very fine sieve. Reserve the oil.

To plate

Divide polenta between 4 plates. Top with several sun choke chips and finish with the 1/4 of morels per plate. Drizzle oil around the polenta and serve warm.

Serves 4


The next time you find yourself in the Great Lakes, grab your wellies, wax jacket and a good covered basket and search for Michigan’s finest…The Great Morel!

I am… a mushroom; On whom the dew of heaven drops now and then.

– John Ford

I’ve never met a mushroom I didn’t like.





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