Thursday, May 23, 2013

Morels for the Holiday

It’s a balmy 45 and I considered covering my precious tomatoes this evening. I decided against it, convinced that it’s Memorial Day weekend and they will be OK. I’m pretty sure that last year couldn’t have been a more different setting. I feel like everything came early last year and I wasn’t prepared for it. At a recent Chicago Cooperative meeting the ice breaker question was what is your favorite spring vegetable? Without blinking an eye my answer was morel mushrooms… Well, River Valley Ranch had photos of their morels up last week at the market, so if you are able to find them, I recommend this morel mushroom ravioli courtesy of the Parsley Thief as a long weekend project for the family or friends because it’s amazing, albeit a bit time consuming but completely worth every minute of work put in. It’s buttery and creamy and textured and melts in your mouth. Homemade pasta has more flavor and is more fun to eat because there’s more to the experience. The flavors that come out are more surprising and exciting than dried pasta and this recipe with the fresh morels drives it home.
Cut and wash 8-10 ounces of morel mushrooms in water. Beware, ants may fly out of them… totally normal, don’t freak. Drain when you’re sure they’re dirt and bug free. Heat some butter in a skillet and add 2 or 3 large shallots that are minced (if you’er lucky, River Valley Ranch will have some grown from their mushroom compost). Cook until translucent. This is one of those times where you really use real butter… like super awesome high quality butter and don’t skimp ladies and gents, this ravioli is serious (Nordic Creamery I’m looking at you). Add the mushrooms and let them sweat out all the water they absorbed for 10 or 12 minutes. Pour 1/4 cup dry white wine into the pan and let the mushrooms absorb it. Add 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon (I used dry from the Spice House and wasn’t disappointed). Remove from heat and let cool.
Drain 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese for 15 minutes. Since you’re already taking the effort to make the pasta from scratch, might I suggest also making the ricotta (seriously, Smitten Kitchen where would I be without you)? Many local farmers have both milk and cream for sale. I have used Kilgus Farmstead but there are many options. Chop the mushroom mixture and mix it into the ricotta along with an egg (farm fresh or bust), a pinch of nutmeg and a cup of grated Parm. Make the fresh pasta courtesy of Mark Bittman and roll it out into sheets. I used a rolling pin (i.e. empty water bottle/wine bottle) to roll my dough out. You don’t have to be fancy about it! Lay out 2 sheets of pasta and take the advice to use cornmeal dusting because it will stick. Spacing an inch apart, mound some heaps of mushroom goo onto one of the sheets of pasta. When you have a reasonable amount, carefully lay the second layer on top. Dip your finger in water and moisten the edges of the pasta so they’ll stick together.
Cut the ravioli with a knife, or a ravioli press, or a cookie cutter… whatever works and lay on a pan covering with a towel until the process is complete. You should get about 24 ravioli out of it. Boil a pot of salted water and carefully drop them in one at a time. Cook for 2-3 minutes until they’re floating on the top. Drain and serve with some melted butter, parm, or mushroom oil and just let the emotion take control. Thank you Parsley Thief for a great recipe and River Valley ranch for delightful morels! Happy mushrooms!

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