Ah, the mighty morchella, aka the morel: a gem of a mushroom! Earthy, pungent, easy to cook, and perfect for building a delicious sauce around. We present a recipe here that we use as a pasta sauce, but you can use the recipe as a standalone dish in its own right: morels as a side dish, with a creamy sauce begging for good bread.
We’re finding morels are relatively easy to find around these parts, though not necessarily on the cheap. But a little goes a long way, so we treated ourselves to a batch to use over our homemade pasta.
Here’s what we used, which was enough for very generous portions:
- Morels, about 3 handfuls
- Good quality, lighly-salted butter, 2-3 tablespoons
- A large shallot
- Garlic confit, to taste
- Olive oil, just a teaspoon or so
- Whole milk
- Optional but recommended: a touch of Armagnac
- Optional but recommended: a soft, mild cheese like Brillat Savarin
Note 1: Armagnac is expensive, and can be omitted from this recipe while still yielding a delicious sauce, but adding it will kick the richness up a few notches, and really add depth to the flavour.
Note 2: Cheese is a great addition to this sauce, but you don’t want something strong, as it can overpower all the other flavours. And you’ll want to use something very soft, so it melts easily. Our awesome local fromager recommended Brillat Savarin.
That said, start by washing the morels by hand. They are delicate, so just run some water over them one at a time and gently scrape to make sure there’s no residual dirt or creatures lurking within them. Put them into a small bowl after you wash them. When you’ve got them all in the bowl, cover them with water and swirl, then drain the water to purge any residues. Transfer our little friends to some paper towels to drain out extra water. While they are draining, dice your shallot.
Next, throw your butter and garlic confit into a sauce pan over medium heat, and cook the shallots until they’re aromatic (just a minute or two). The butter should be simmering.
Add the morels and splash of olive oil. The morels will soak up the butter quickly. If the mixture gets too dry (ie if it looks like the shallots might get scorched by a too-dry pan), add a little more butter.
Stir the mixture gently and turn the morels over a few times, so they fully absorb the liquids. After a few minutes, the morels should have soaked up most of the liquid. Then it’s time to add the milk: use enough to half-cover the morels. Start conservatively on the milk – the morels will soak some of it up, and some of it will evaporate from the heat. You can add more as the mixture cooks if you need to.
The mixture will simmer pretty quickly, but you don’t want it to boil, so keep the heat moderate. Let it simmer for a few minutes and thicken up a little. Add some ground black pepper to taste. Touch the morels from time to time as well – they should be pliable by now, not dry feeling (and not too mushy either). If they feel dry, let the mixture simmer longer.
Optional 1: If using Armagnac, add a dash or two when the sauce starts to thicken and is simmering. Pour a sip for yourself. You deserve it.
Optional 2: If using cheese, add 2-3 small blobs, and distribute it around the liquid so it melts fully.
Morels are potent, and this sauce can get robust, so be sure to taste it from time to time. Add salt to taste, and if it is TOO strong, you can add a little more milk. If its too milky, you can add a little more butter and let it simmer longer (to allow more milk to evaporate).
Once the sauce hits the thickenss you want, you are finished. You can drop the heat and cover the pan until you’re ready to use the sauce. If you’re eating the morels on their own, pour the mixture into small bowls and serve directly.
We further indulged ourselves and shaved some summer black truffle on our pasta: one of our finest home-cooked meals ever!