Thursday, May 10, 2018

Morels Stuffed with Ramps, Three Ways

Morels (Morchella americana, in this case) are not terribly common or abundant in our area of southeastern Connecticut, we often end up driving a few hours west to the Berkshires to find some. Once in a while, we find a handful in one of our wild asparagus patch just a few miles away, this year that number was only eight. I figured that if I sliced the morels in half, that would give me 16 hollow caps to stuff, enough for a hearty meal. We had a small bundle of ramps greens (Allium tricoccum) in the fridge, so I used their funky-garlicky flavor as a seasoning in three different stuffings.

Risotto: For the broth, I used a vegetable broth base and added some dehydrated morels from past years, then removed the re-hydrated morels, finely chopped them, and added them to the risotto. Instead of onions or garlic, I removed the purplish stems from the ramps leaves and finely chopped them--they are quite flavorful and succulent. The risotto was also cooked with a touch of dry white wine and had Parmesan cheese stirred in. At the end of cooking when the risotto was just barely done and still a touch soupy, I added another bunch of the chopped, purple stems of ramps for an additional color and flavor boost.

Polenta: To make the polenta, I used some more of the morel-accented broth and finely diced, re-hydrated morels. A generous portion of tangy goat cheese and some butter were whipped into the polenta as it finished cooking, making it light and creamy, and I added some freshly chopped ramps greens at the end, with a few grinds of fresh black pepper from the pepper mill.

Potato: I used some starchy russets as this base, boiled and then pressed through the ricer for fluffiness, then enhanced with a few pats of butter and several spoonfuls of pureed ramps greens. When we collect just the leaves of ramps, we will puree a good amount of them in the Vitamix with some olive oil and salt, making a dark green, pungent paste that freezes exceptionally well. We like to keep at least a dozen 4 oz. containers of this puree in the freezer to use all year, swirled into soups, breads, rice dishes, or anything that needs a rampy kick. The mashed potato stuffing also had some grated sharp white cheddar cheese and an egg for richness and firmness once baked.
After a pan sear, the stuffed morels were baked in a hot oven

Once the three fillings were made, I sliced each morel in half from top to bottom. A mounded portion of stuffing went into the hollow cavities, and I placed them in the fridge overnight to firm up the stuffings. At lunchtime, the chilled, stuffed morels got pan fired on the stovetop in a heavy cast iron pan, then baked in a hot oven for 20 minutes. Unfortunately, the mushroom was mostly hidden under the stuffing, but Robert turned them upside down to see the deeply caramelized, crispy morel that once held the stuffing had become more like a small pie crust for the savory fillings. We let the morels cool a bit, then popped them in our mouths after they were dipped into some morel-Marsala gravy.

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