Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Morels, Raspberry Empañadas, and a Healthy Dose of Good Fortune

Can you ask for anything more than food that is nourishing, plentiful, and tasty? This comes up a lot with my children. This morning, they were fighting over who got to have the blackberry container closer to their own plate. They are eating sweet, juicy blackberries for breakfast in May, and fighting! Ah. They will learn. It makes our Tuesday Night Cooking Club so much more fun because there is no fighting, only appreciation for the good fortune we've been granted to be able to make whatever our taste buds desire, while nourishing our bodies until we are full. And our children will learn to appreciate this, too. It's our job to make sure they do because many, many people are not so fortunate.

As a consolation prize for not getting into the morel challenge last month, we received dried morels and are having a great time using them. Last night we decided to stuff them. They turned out delicious, and the majority of our dinner was locally grown and harvested. The oysters were from Wellfleet, the raspberries last year's beauties we picked in Winchester, all of the herbs from Keja's garden, and, to top it off, my brilliant friend overplanted her lettuce with the intention of thinning it for salad, so the greens were 30 minutes old and from 20 feet away when we ate them. They were awesome!

Note, the creme fraîche for the empañadas needs 36 hours to develop so plan accordingly.

Oyster-Stuffed Morels with Grits

serves 4 adults. Ideally, the grits and mushrooms are being cooked at the same time!


Preheat over to 250. 

1 cup heavy cream, half and half, or milk
1 cup mushroom broth (saved from reconstituting morels)
2 cups water
1 cup grits (white or yellow)
1/4 teas. salt

In a medium ovenproof pot (with ovenproof lid), bring liquids to a boil over medium high heat. Whisk in grits and salt. Remove from heat, cover pan, and place in oven. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from oven, stir, and keep covered until needed.

Stuffed Morels

18 reconstituted dried morels (reserve liquid for grit recipe)
12 raw oysters, in shell
2 slices bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/4 teas. pepper
3 sage leaves, chopped fine
2 springs oregano, chopped fine
1/2 cup parsley, chopped fine
1 small bunch chives (with flower buds, if available), chopped coarsely
2 TBSP panko
18 asparagus tips (between 1 and 2 inches long)

Reconstituting morels: Place mushrooms in a non-reactive bowl. Pour boiling water over them until they are covered (use at least 1 1/2 cups to get the 1 cup of broth needed for the recipe below). Let them sit for 20 minutes. Lift mushrooms out of the water and place on a towel to remove the majority of the water. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place a steamer over a pan, with 1 inch water under it. Cover with a top and put over high heat until water is boiling. Add oysters, cover pan, and steam until they are opened. Check every few minutes and remove them as they open.

Note on shellfish: all the oysters should be closed when you get them. If they are open slightly, they may still be good. Tap the shell gently on the counter and wait a minute. They should close up. If they do not, do not use them. When they are cooked, they should all be open. If any do not open well after the others have, discard these.

Saute bacon in a frying pan until browned and cooked through, ~ 10 minutes. Add shallots.

Remove oyster meat, discarding shells, and chop into 1/4 inch pieces. Add to pan with bacon. 

Remove from heat and add in herbs and panko. Add salt to taste; we used 1/4 teas.

Carefully stuff each morel with the stuffing. If you need to slit the side, do so, careful to only make the opening as big as necessary. Any leftover stuffing can be served on the side.

Put one asparagus tip in the opening of each mushroom. Place on a cookie sheet (we put ours on top of crisscrossed asparagus spears).

Bake for 15 minutes. Serve over grits.

This method makes the morels crispy, which was quite tasty. We want to try steaming them, and will do so soon and post the results.

We roasted the asparagus left over from the mushroom recipe and served it on the side.

Keja's Dressing for Deliciously Fresh Baby Greens

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teas. salt
1/2 teas. pepper
1 clove garlic, whole
1 teas. mustard

Put all ingredients in a jar with a lid. Cover and shake well. Leave in the fridge for up to three weeks, discarding garlic when dressing is gone.

Raspberry Empañadas with Creme Fraîche and Wine Sauce

This made 6 empañadas, but there were not any leftovers.

This was awesome. Seriously, one of the best desserts I have ever had, ever. I'm not even embarrassed to say that. Try it and see what you think.

Creme Fraîche

Put equal amounts sour cream and heavy cream into a jar with a lid. Stir well, cover, and leave out at room temperature for 10 - 12 hours. Put in the refrigerator and leave for 24 hours (less is okay if you're desperate to use it). You may need to stir it again before using.

Wine Sauce

This is perfect for using up old wine. Old to Keja is a week. Old to me is two months. Decide where you fall and act accordingly. We mixed a few different red wines, finishing up random bottles.

In a heavy sauce pan, add 2 cups red wine and 1 cup sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat until simmering, and let simmer for an hour or so, until the liquid has reduced by 3/4 and sauce is thick and viscous. Take it off the heat. We then added the leftover raspberries from the empañadas, which put it over the top in the deliciousness category. 

Preheat oven to 350.

Empañada dough

1 cup flour
1 frozen stick salted butter
1/4 cup ice water

Cut butter into slices and put it and the flour into a food processor. Pulse until roughly blended but there are still small chunks of butter.

Add water. Pulse briefly. 

Dump onto a lightly floured tea towel. Using your hands, bunch into a tight ball and then flatten with the palm of your hand into a round disc. Let is sit 30 minutes. 

Empañada filling

1 1/2 cups frozen raspberries
2 TBSP sugar
6 sage leaves

Toss raspberries with sugar.

After 30 minutes, roll out dough into 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness.

Cut into 6 equal sections. Fill each one with 1/4 cup of the filling (we had about 2 TBSP extra, which we put into the wine sauce at the end). Top each with a sage leaf, and fold over and crimp closed.

Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until starting to brown.

Serve empañadas topped with creme fraîche and wine sauce.