Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Brown Study

For me, morels are from another world. Someone else knows them. Not me. Someone else from a morel family knows the secret: these seasonal markers, when the buds on this tree are just so, when these flowers bloom. Someone else takes a path, finds landmarks, turns here at this rock and arrives at this stump. In a town I don’t know, someone recognizes a man but will not greet him because, thirty years ago, his father came back alone to a place her father showed him.

I hope no one ever figures out how to cultivate them, either, because their mystery is part of their appeal. I hope they always stay scarce, ephemeral, and expensive. This forces a person to approach them with some gravity, mindfulness, and respect. For middle-class city dwellers, there are so few truly seasonal foods. Almost everything is attainable with a splurge or a search. It’s a comfort—to me, at least—to know that some things aren’t for sale because they truly can’t be bought at any price. Fresh morels, in any season but spring, are a thing like that.

Fresh morel pilaf, pan-grilled trout, and sorrel sauce

The pilaf
¼ lb fresh morels, rinsed well (they’re gritty!) and chopped roughly
1 bunch ramps or green onions, sliced (white part only)
2-3 T butter or oil
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups water or stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the stock in a small saucepan and keep it ready. Heat the butter or oil in a pan with a tight-fitting lid. Sauté the ramps and morels until the mushrooms release, then resorb, their juices. Toss the rice into the pan and sauté a few minutes more until the rice starts to turn golden brown. Add the hot stock and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to simmering, cover the pan, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Season to taste.

Back to top

The sauce
Make the sauce while you’re making the pilaf. Be sure it’s ready before you cook the fish. This one is modified from a recipe in Joy of Cooking.

1 carrot, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
6 springs flat-leaf parsley
½ c water
½ c dry white wine
4 T butter, cut in little pieces
1 bunch sorrel, washed and torn or cut into 1” pieces
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the carrot, celery, garlic, parsley, water, and wine in a small saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 20 minutes. Strain the liquid and put back in the pot. There should be a half cup.
Heat the stock and whisk in the butter. Stir in the sorrel and let it wilt. Season to taste. Set the sauce aside while you make the fish.

Back to top

A trout
A pan

Heat up the pan for a few minutes. The trick is for it to be very hot. Lay the trout in the pan and wait 5-6 minutes; check inside and see if the inside of the bottom fillet is starting to cook. When it is, then flip the trout over and cook for another 5-6 minutes. The skin will be attractively brown and blistered. How fantastic is that?!

Back to top

To serve: I think it is fun to make a little arrangement of the trout on a platter and show it to the diners. So dramatic! Why should the cook be the only one to enjoy the fun?

Next, slit the trout down the back and make a cut through the skin across the tail and across the body just behind the gills. Use a fork, the knife, a spatula, and a few muttered curse words to release the top fillet from the trout’s skeleton. Put this on a plate flesh side up and spoon on some of the sorrel sauce. Put a spoonful of mushroom pilaf on the plate and maybe some green frippery at the top.

Lift the head and tail. The skeleton should come off the second fillet, which you can then plate and sauce. So fancy. If you are not creeped out by the head, then don’t forget to pick out the tiny morsels of trout cheek under the gill plate just south of the eyes.

Bon appetit!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comments - nothing scatological, please. If you wouldn't bring it in the kitchen, please don't say it here.