Tuesday, April 26, 2011

caramelized leeks & morel tart

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.

Related posts:
-Homemade pasta with morels
-simple pan-fried morels
-barley risotto with chanterelles
-chanterelle tart
-asparagus Gruyere tart

Monday, April 18, 2011

iron stef dinner at table three

As I mentioned in this post about the mussel recipe from Table Three restaurant, when I won the RFT web award, my very good friends John and Cathy (T3's chef and Maitre De) offered to have an Iron Stef - inspired dinner at the restaurant. This happened last week, and it was GLORIOUS. I sat down with them a month or so before to discuss the menu... all of the courses were based on some of my favorite posts from this here blog. Chef John put his own touch on everything, of course, because he is the chef. Everything was wonderful! What a great evening of friends and food! And wine, duh. Here's what we ate...

The specials menu... everyone who ate there found this tucked into the regular menu. People could order from it ala carte, or, like me and a few of my friends, get the whole 4 course shebang!

The Amuse-bouche was a miniature lamb cupcake in a potato "wrapper" with goat cheese mashed potato "frosting." Based on the infamous mini meatloaf cupcakes and the OG meatloaf cupcakes. These were a hit. Everyone wanted more of them and bigger ones. A fun little tease of food to get everyone excited about the rest!

The next course was a ceviche with Asian flavors, based on my Sushi Ceviche. I love the stacks with fried wonton skins!

Scallops, tuna, shrimp... and more! Fancy!

Next was a salad with bacon lardons and a poached egg. I wanted something with a runny-yolked egg involved to represent my logo. I had a salad like this when I went to a demo by Michael Ruhlman (where I got to MEET HIM. EEK! :) ).

Yolk. One of the most gorgeous substances on earth.

The main course was roasted chicken (one of my most cooked, most favorite things to cook) with a side of fennel bread pudding. I have a thing for fennel bread puddings. John really did it justice. Nom.

Dessert was the only thing not based on a post. I don't make a lot of desserts, so I told John and Cathy I had been craving Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby Ice cream (now named "Hubby Hubby in support of gay marriage... how awesome is that?!?!). Could they make something like that? Holy wow did they come through with that request. Meet the "peanut butter, pretzel, malt, caramel, fudge ice cream bomb." Bomb, y'all. It's serious.

People went nuts over this, and it may make regular appearances on the Table Three menu. Yes, yes. it was da bomb, indeed.

Speaking of the bomb, these are my friends who dined with me (minus Kelly who left earlier because she had to teach in the morning). I love them all! Thanks, guys! And thank you John & Cathy and Table Three! I am not worthy, but I am so glad this happened :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

goodbye, grandma

My maternal grandma died Friday evening. I am crushed, to say the least. She was an amazing amazing woman. My grandpa died when I was 12... also an incredible human being. Together Patricia and Louis built quite the legacy. 12 kids, 27 grand kids, 5 great-grand kids, and some on the way. All together the count of people who would not be on this earth if it weren't for my grandma and grandpa is 47. And this number is constantly growing. It's awe-inspiring.

What's more impressive is the fact that all of these people are GOOD, loving people. This has to be because my grandma was one of the most patient, saintly, loving people to ever walk this earth. She was also very smart. I had the privilege to live with Grandma for about 6 months when I was 19-20. I am so thankful to have had this opportunity to get to know her as a human being and a friend.

It was suggested that I do a post to honor her... write about "Grandma's cooking." The truth is, my grandma was not a typical home-cooking kind of grandma. She cooked, of course, as she had to feed 12 kids on a budget. But growing up, the foods I remember her making were seven layer salad and jello cheesecake for family parties. When I lived with her, we had crock pot pot roast flavored with dried onion soup 2 days the very first week!

Thinking back, the food from Grandma and grandpa's house that makes me most nostalgic is cheese sandwiches and pears. I looooved pears when I was a kid, and grandma always made sure to have some on hand when I was visiting. The cheese sandwiches were simply Colby cheese on white bread with yellow mustard. Why was this so special? Because at my house we always only had American cheese, which I despised, and wheat bread. And no, this was not grilled cheese. I was a weird kid... no melted cheese.

So, yeah... that's it. Simple foods that are part of some really really happy memories. I am so thankful that there are so very many such memories, and so much love, to get my family and me through this great loss. Goodbye, Grandma. I love you!