It's morel mushroom season!! If you are not familiar, morels are wild mushrooms that come out for maybe a month-month and a half every spring. They are serious business... morel hunters have their spots and they are very secretive about them. At markets, morels fetch big bucks... like $40 a pound and more. I've tried morel hunting once, last year. It was terribly unsuccessful, resulting in getting really lost, finding a spooky old graveyard, and waiting for an hour by the side of a car-less two-lane road for my friends to find us.
Luckily, I have friends who have morel luck. And these friends are generous, and apparently like me. Kelly and Jerad left me a morel they found in their yard when I was dogsitting for them. The next day, a friend at work gave me 5 or 6 morels he had found. So I had a small, precious baggie full of morels... most likely the only morels I'll get this spring. How to use them best? This is the pressure of these elusive fungi. You want to honor their smoky, earthy flavor and not waste one nibble. But simply frying or sauteeing these 6 or 7 shroom treasures would not allow me to share. I decided to stretch the flavor with a rich yet springy tart.
This turned out to be a great way to eat morels. The sweetness of the caramelized leeks and the creamy cheeses highlighted the smokiness of the mushrooms, really bringing out their best. And it was a nice, filling dinner for two!
Caramelized Leek and Morel Tart
-3 leeks, white stalks only, halved lengthwise, sliced thin and cleaned well
-1 Tablespoon butter
-salt and water as needed
-6-7 morel mushrooms, soaked/cleaned well, dried and quartered lengthwise
-1 Tablespoon olive oil
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 shallot, sliced thin
-1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
-1 cup ricotta cheese
-1 egg yolk
-1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
-1 sheet puff pastry
-13/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
-Cook the leeks in the butter over medium or low heat. Cook slowly, allowing to soften completely and bet slightly golden brown, about 20-25 minutes, adding a couple tablespoons of water when needed to help soften and keep moist. Set aside.
-Cook the thyme, garlic and shallots in the olive oil until starting to soften. Add the morels and gently stir and toss to combine. Cook until everything is softened. Set aside.
-Combine the ricotta, egg yolk, thyme and salt to flavor. Fold the sheet of thawed puff pastry in half to form a long rectangle on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll out into a larger rectangle, about 7" by 12". Dock the center of the rectangle with a fork, leaving about an inch of undocked pastry on all sides.
-Spread the ricotta mixture over the docked center of the pastry rectangle. Layer the cooked leeks evenly over the ricotta. Sprinkle most of the Gruyere over the leeks. Place the morels over the Gruyere, distributing the shallot and garlic evenly over the tart. Sprinkle a bit more Gruyere over the mushrooms.
-Bake in a preheated 400ºF oven for about 20-25 minutes until pastry is cooked and cheese starts to brown. Let cool for about 7-10 minutes, slice into squares with a pizza cutter, serve warm.
-Homemade pasta with morels
-simple pan-fried morels
-barley risotto with chanterelles
-asparagus Gruyere tart