Sunday, June 25, 2023

Morels and Leeks on White Bean Puree


Summer is here but somehow it feels like spring... Even though it's warm, and I am wearing flipflops, summer vibe is eluding me. Spring produce is still lingering in the corners of the market, there they are, garlic scapes, gentle greens, delicate herbs, peonies. I don't feel particularly summery at the moment, so I am gonna be cooking green and delicate while I can. This week I made halibut with beurre blanc and roasted radishes. I made pappardelle, and served them with grilled peas, grilled asparagus, and garlic scape pesto. What else... I made barley salad with baby cucumber, scallion, dried apricots, and a boatload of tarragon, chervil, dill, and parsley. And last night, I decided to splurge a little, and bought a handful of morels. Probably the last ones... I was felling a little blue, and I thought "what a heck". It does seem like a sticker shock at first, especially here in this horribly overpriced Gotham City, but the good news is, when it comes to morels, you really need only a handful. You are not going to be making a mushroom pie or ragout for that matter. (I bought 8 ounces.) 

Another thing is that when you cook with morels, you use them wisely. It's about performing a miracle with one dish, one plate of food. Sometimes when we invite people over, we tend to line the table with many, many, MANY, plates of food. One million gorgeous dishes. That works. People love it. But sometimes you invite people over, especially those that mean something to you, and you make a dish -- one dish only -- and you know that it will take their breath away. One dish and a wine to match. So here is a dish that does it for me. It may be the morels, but it's not just the morels. I like that it is creamy and buttery in so many ways, and that it has all those different textures, I like the scent of the lemon and the hint of the wine, and the herbs that follow... This dish is like a life on a cloud. Now that I am thinking out loud, this dish is so good, that perhaps you can do without morels -- shiitakes, or any wild mushroom blend would do nicely. If you get hold of good quality dried morels, that may do as well. I did it before... 

If you want to give this dish a try, here are some things to consider. 1) Clean the morels. Clean the morels. Clean the morels. Even if you are using dried ones. There are things that live inside, I learned it the hard way. 2) Cook the beans yourself if you can. I am not trying to be a bean snob, but this is a dish where home-cooked beans really shine. 3) Use the stock for the puree if you can, it does make a difference. 4) Pick your wine wisely. Not the one that goes into the dish but the one you will pour into the glass. Condrieu would be my choice. Or unoaked Chardonnay, unoaked being the key word. That's about it. I hope you will like it. 

Leeks and Morels on White Bean Puree

for the bean puree:

3 tablespoons butter
1 large shallot, cut into thin ribs
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 – 3 sprigs of thyme
16 oz cooked cannellini beans (or two 15-ounce cans), drained and rinsed
1 cup chicken broth
salt and freshly ground good quality white pepper, such as sarawak

for the leeks:

2 tablespoons butter
2 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and pale green parts only
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup dry white wine
salt and freshly ground black pepper

for the morels:

1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 tablespoon butter
6 ounces fresh morels, cleaned carefully and sliced in half
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons chicken or vegetable stock or water
1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs, such as thyme, chervil, or parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper

First make the puree. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the shallot, garlic, and thyme sprigs and cook over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until the shallots have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the beans (reserve a handful for garnish) and the broth. Simmer over moderately high heat until the broth is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Discard the thyme sprig. Puree the bean mixture in a blender. Season the puree with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Make the leeks: In a cast iron or stainless-steel skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the wine, and cook until the wine has reduced and leaks are creamy and close to falling apart, another 4 minutes or so. Remove from the heat. Season with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Set aside and keep warm.

Make the morels. In a cast iron or stainless-steel skillet, heat the oil over high heat until shimmering. Add the morels and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-high add the butter, lemon juice, and stock (or water) and cook, until liquid reduces and morels are coated in a creamy sauce, about minute or two. Stir in the herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

Plate as soon as the mushrooms are done. Spread the puree on a large plate. Top with the leeks and then morels. Give it another grind of black pepper on top. Decorate with a handful of whole beans and herbs. Serve right away.

Make Ahead: The puree can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat gently.