Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Eating Out Tubers and Shrooms

So spring is here and I have begun my seasonal plunder of the Vineyard Farmers Market. It’s still early in the season, so what these farmers lack in bounty they make up for in succulent tenderness. Sweet little tightly coiled bunches of baby romaine, tangy and sweet myer lemons, blood oranges. My money just evaporates every time I come here. It takes two trips to the car just so we’re not loaded down while we try to sip coffee. And naturally, I forget to bring my camera. So you’re stuck with what we brought home.

There were two major scores on the trip. The beloved ladies of Sun Smiling Farms offered their usual delicious array of mushrooms and some beautiful, young leeks. But, oh happy and special day! They have morels! Blow your truffles out your ass, morels rule the fungal world in my crystal castle! The comely lady is quite amused as I do my gangly-pudgy dance celebrating the extra fatness I shall be layering on for the sweltering summer to come. My other major delight was discovering that the veg folks on the northeast corner had Jerusalem artichokes! I have heard of sunchokes before, but have never worked with, or tasted them before. I’m giddy with delight at the prospect of working with a new and relatively rare (for Fresno) ingredient. Now, whatever shall we make with these beauties?

Glad you asked! Time for Sunday dinner. I’m an immediate gratification kinda fellow. So, we’re going to dive right into the middle of the market bounty and make all of the delicacies into a mess o’ vittles. Scouring the interweb for morel recipes is bizarre. Any ‘shroom hunter site pretty much offers 80 variation on fried morels, 1 cream sauce recipe and 1 soup recipe. The rest of the web offered morels and asparagus. How odd. You would think that such a wonderful mushroom would have more variation in it’s popular use. I guess fried highlights the flavor best. Screw that though, I want a brandy cream sauce with these bad boys. How I wish I could find green peppercorns in this town! But a good cook soldiers on. That’ll mean some steaks. Rib eyes look good. Ok, now onto the chokes. Hmmm, sautéed with sage and lemon? Nah. Oooooo! Sunchoke au gratin with ginger and garlic. Now that sounds delicious! And what’s this? Dilled horseradish red potato salad? Yes please. But what’s this crap about using a microwave? Screw that, I’ve got the idea, I can run with it from there.

Rib Eye Steaks with Morel Brandy Cream Sauce

2 med rib eye steaks
6oz morel mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup diced shallots
4 tablespoons brandy
1 cup cream
2 cups beef broth reduced by 2/3
2 tablespoons green peppercorns (if you can lay hands on these spicy little gems)

Prep: Soak your morels in salt water to wash off the grit and run off any potential hitch hikers. After the soak, rinse and dry on a paper towel. Prior to use, give a rough chop. I like mine fairly chunky. Put your beef broth on a low simmer to reduce. Add in a bay leave if you like. Give your shallots a dice and season your steaks with a little salt and pepper. 

Now, heat up your pan and add the olive oil and 2 tbl spoons of butter. Once the foam has settled, fry your steaks to taste, preferably medium rare. Once done, set aside and rest. Add 1 more tbl spoon of butter to the pan and then add in your shallots. I like to cook mine until they’re getting a bit glassy, around 5 minutes. At this point, add in the reduced beef stock and the brandy. Careful smokers! Booze evaporates. Keep that rockin Tom Selleck mustache in safety. Allow that to simmer a bit, then add in your morels (and peppercorns if you have them). Allow these to simmer until you start to smell the boozy brandy mellow and the mushroom smell starts to dominate. Now add in your cream and simmer until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Plate your steak, then top with morels scooped from the pan, then spoon sauce over the whole affair. Your dinner guest will hail you as a golden god of cream sauces. Next course! In reverse.

Sunchoke gratin

2 cups of med sliced sunchokes
2 table spoons butter
1 cup cream
1 & 1/2 teaspoons of corn starch
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced ginger
salt and pepper
1/2 cup crushed walnuts

Prep: Wash and slice your sunchokes, then slice them about 3/16ths of an inch thick.  Crush your walnuts to the desired texture.  Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and prepare a roasting pan with a water bath

Heat up a sauce pan with some butter, add in your sunchokes, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Mix corn starch with a little reserved cream and add to the pan and simmer for another 5 minutes or until thickened.  Spoon sunchokes and sauce into 2 buttered ramekins, top with walnuts and place in the water bath and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  Allow to cool and enjoy.

The recipe worked spot on and was insanely delicious. The only variation I made was substituting the bread crumbs with crushed walnuts. OMFG*! (*Oh My Felicitous Goat) It was insanely good! I had no idea that Jerusalem artichokes would taste so much like sunflower seeds. It makes sense, since it’s a sunflower tuber. But amazingly delicious all the same. And it mixes so very well with the warm oily flavor of the toasted walnuts on top. I think next time I might grate a little nutmeg into the cream as well to add a little bit of a perfume to the flavor. Happy happy happy! And last but first…

Dilled Horseradish Potato Salad

2lb red potatoes cubed
½ cup diced shallots
1 cup mayonnaise
1 heaping tablespoon horseradish (We like it HOT baby!)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons dried dill
½ tsp cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Prep: Wash and cube your potatoes. Boil until fork tender then rinse and cool. Dice shallots.

Take all of your wet ingredients and whisk together in a bowl large enough for your pertaters. Toss in your dill and shallots and mix. Then add in your chilled potatoes and toss thoroughly to combine. You can serve immediately, but the flavors will be more pronounced if allowed to rest overnight.

And that dear friends is, what I hope to be the first of many wonderful dishes made from fresh ingredients sold by Fresnans and from our own soils. This is only whetting my appetite for what bounties may come from the market as well as my own recently planted garden. Thumbs up to ole Maw Nature for kicking down some kick ass grub.