Monday, May 24, 2010

Farm-to-Table Sunday

The morels (previous article below), fresh spinach, and herbs I gathered on Saturday morning at the Minneapolis Farmers Market seized their destiny yesterday in a zenith of Sunday Dunch (like brunch, but closer to dinner than breakfast) perfection. Fresh food, family bonding, epic meals consequently followed by epic naps - it's the stuff of life.

I had made plans post-Saturday market to meet up with my mom (Bette) and stepfather (Ernie) on Sunday for a post-church meal. Often you don't need a reason or occasion to make plans with loved ones. Sometimes you find several reasons at the farmers market. I think spring produce is an occasion all its own. For those following along with my new stovetop struggles, you'll also understand that I find Bette and Ernie's stove to be an occasion all its own. It's serious business - like something you'd find in a very legit restaurant kitchen. Four huge gas burners, warming lights and racks, more bells and whistles than I can imagine. My husband dreams of owning a motorcycle. I dream of owning this appliance.

Another dream of mine - for the past 3 years - has been to attempt to recreate one of the most memorable dishes I tasted while working at Kitchen Conservatory is St. Louis, and the missing ingredient has always been an abundance of fresh morels. Chef Joe Herbert's popular "Sauce Boss" classes became famous for his amazing sauce artistry and would always sell out fast. As a privilege of working the class, I was able to taste along, and smuggle copies of the best recipes. His recipe for Chicken with Morel and Truffle Sauce holds firmly in my memory of one the best chicken dishes I'd ever tasted. The sauce was rich, fragrant and comforting, and slightly enigmatic given my lack of experience with the mushroom. I'm sure it would be just as tasty if other wild mushrooms filled is as substitutes, but I always wanted to recreate it with the morels.

Bette and Ernie live near a fantastic meat and fish market called Clancy's, and they ordered some chicken breasts (skin on; easy on the bones) just for the occasion. And of course I couldn't leave without also purchasing some deli ham and bacon/chive/Gouda sausage. At home we set the table with farmers market flowers and got to work on the chopping and prepping.

Having never worked with this mushroom before, I sliced them lengthwise, per Ernie's advice. "You don't want to cut rings," he pointed out in his inherent English accent.

Meanwhile, the chicken crackled on high heat in a stainless steel All-Clad pan, a pan with a flat bottom and high walls, ideal for meat-searing-followed-by-oven-cooking-followed-by-sauce-making. I love pans that do all the work.

Despite a brief panicky moment when I thought I botched the sauce, and a minor notion that I may have oversalted a wee bit (a tendency of mine; I adore salt) the final product turned out just as delicious as I remember. Judging by the silence at the table I knew that Bette and Ernie agreed.

Here's the recipe, adapted slightly based on number of people at the table and what I did a little - that is, inconsequentially to the end product - differently.

Recipe for Chicken with Creamy Morel-Truffle Sauce:

  • 3 chicken breasts, skin-on
  • 1-2 cups chopped fresh morels
  • 1 and 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp white truffle oil
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or grapeseed oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs - rosemary & thyme
  • Dry sherry for deglazing pan (you could also use dry white wine, original recipe calls for Madeira, just don't use anything too sweet)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

You'll also need: A deep, heavy bottom pan that can go from stovetop to oven back to stovetop, and time built in after the meal for a nap.

Heat the oven to 350. In your pan, heat the olive/grapeseed oil on high heat. Rub the chicken breasts with salt & pepper and about half of the chopped rosemary/thyme. Sear the chicken skin-side down for 6 minutes. Flip and sear the other side for 3 minutes. Flip the chicken back over to skin-side down and transfer to the oven. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, place the pan back on the stovetop and set the chicken aside on a platter to rest.

Heat the pan to med-high heat and add the mushrooms. When the mushrooms have softened and absorbed the pan juices, deglaze the pan with a couple of splashes of sherry. When the sherry has been reduced/absorbed, add the heavy cream. Keep the heat high while stirring for a while, until the cream reduces by about half and starts looking more like a saucy consistency. Turn the heat down and stir as the sauce continues to thicken. Finish the sauce by stirring in the truffle oil and remaining herbs, and taste for salt & pepper. Serve the chicken with the sauce poured over the top.

Serve warm crusty bread on the side for mopping up the sauce, and a green salad to balance out the richness.


A. Lanigan said...

I'm glad you're back! I also had a blast at the Farmer's Market this weekend. LOVE THEM!

Joe Herbert said...

WOW! That looks great!!! I'm sure it taste even better!!

I'm sorry to admit I haven't been on your blog in months (you were bookmarked on a browser I wasn't using anymore) and I randomly found you tonight.....coincidentally right after mentioning me in your post. I must be psychic. Thanks for the kind words...I miss doing classes with was always fun!!!!!

Hope all is well and happy cooking!


Veronica said...

Thanks Angie!
And thanks Joe! It did taste REALLY great. Almost as great as yours. Almost. I miss KC and your classes, too. :)