Making the most of foraging success

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If you have followed me for any amount of time, by now you know I’m a HUGE forager. I love nothing better than to head into the forest or on the shore with my eyes peeled for something tasty. Wild blueberries in Alaska, mushrooms, sea beans in a tidal zone…I love finding these items and bringing them home to my (or my guests’) table.

At the first sign of Fall, I’m always out…I’ve always been very good at finding Chanterelles and I’m particularly manic about Cauliflower mushrooms (Sparassis). I’ve been lucky to find “The Prince” (Agaricus) as well. But try as I might, the springtime Morel has eluded me. Until this year. Based on a tip from a brother-in-law, we set out a couple of weeks ago to see if we could finally get lucky.

It was a good sign when, not even 3 minutes into our “trek,” I found the first false Morel. Don’t want those…they are deadly poisonous (although some people say, cooked properly, they can be fine — don’t know about you but I don’t want to take that risk). And, not too much later, in the shade of a patch of Colt’s Foot, we found the first REAL MOREL! Soon thereafter, I spotted my first one too. FINALLY! After all these years, I held in my hands my very first, personally found and harvested morel! Oh, joy of joys!

My first ever foraged local Morel

The specimens we found were amazing…nearly all were perfect, no worms, no rot…just perfect. By the end of our trip, we’d probably scored about 18 or so, and now I had the exquisite joy of decided how to honor this bounty in the “land galley.”

Veal and morels are a totally classic combination; I had a few amazing chops in the freezer that I had purchased from Key City Fish Company near me in Port Townsend. In addition to fabulous fish, they can special order just about anything you want in the way of meat and poultry and I was NOT disappointed in the quality of the product I received. Perfect for my morel babies…

When you have great quality ingredients, you don’t need to do much to them to make a fabulous meal. So, perfectly seared chops with a Morel, Cognac and Cream Sauce seemed the perfect way to go.

First, a really hot pan for the chops…cast iron is the way to go! Give it a good heat, add a splash of oil and hear the sizzle when the chops hit the pan. Resist the urge to lift them too quickly…you want to get that brown carmelization on the surface. Flip and repeat…

Once they are well seared, put them in the oven to finish cooking while you make the sauce. Ingredients are prepped and ready to go — shallots, cream, cognac (don’t go cheap and buy some off-the-shelf brandy….give this sauce the royal treatment. You’ll thank me!), and…our stars: the morels.

Once the veal is out of the pan, you’ll add some butter and then the morels. Like most mushrooms, morels should not be eaten raw. Give them a little time to cook…and absorb that aroma! The shallots and garlic go in next and get a little cook time just to soften them. Deglaze your pan with the cognac, being careful not to ignite the fumes. That’s less likely if you have an electric cooktop than with my high-BTU gas flame, but I’m cautioning you just the same. Beef broth goes in next and you’ll want to reduce the liquid a bit. Finally, the cream…again, you’ll reduce that until you have the most sublime sauce!

Morel Sauce Heaven

So, once your sauce is thickened to your preference, it’s time to take the veal out of the oven, letting it rest for about 5 minutes before plating. I like to offer the whole chop on the plate, napped with some of the sauce and garnished with some chopped parsley or chives and a few reserved sauteed morels. And, if you’re not lucky enough to have access to fresh morels, I have adapted the recipe to suit dried ones, which, if they aren’t readily available to you locally, you can always mail-order.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. Not just the recipe but the adventure that led up to it. Stay tuned for more!

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Veal Chops with Morels and Cognac Cream Sauce

An elegant entree showcasing delectable Morel mushrooms with a juicy seared veal chop in a creamy Cognac sauce
Course: Entree
Keyword: chops with cream sauce, cognac cream sauce, elegant cream sauce, fancy dinner with mushrooms, foraging wild mushrooms, morel mushrooms, recipes with morels, steakhouse chops, veal chops, what to do with morels, what to do with wild mushrooms, wild mushrooms
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Corinne Gregory Sharpe

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 1" thick veal chops
  • 2 Tbsp salted butter
  • 8 oz morel mushrooms, trimmed, larger ones halved, * See note, below
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup cognac
  • 1/3 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • chives or fresh thyme, chopped for garnish

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 200°F
  • In a large heavy-bottomed skillet add olive oil and bring to high heat. When pan is hot, season veal chops with salt and pepper and add to the pan. Cook 2-3 minutes per side until seared and golden brown. Remove to a plate and place inside preheated oven to keep warm.
  • Add butter to the pan and add Morel mushrooms. Saute until mushrooms are tender, about 5-7 minutes. If desired, reserve a few whole-cap smaller mushrooms for garnish.
  • Add shallot and garlic; cook until fragrant and soft, about 1-2 minutes. Turn heat down and add cognac to deglaze pan. Simmer the cognac until reduced slightly.
  • Add beef broth to pan; simmer until reduced by approximately half. Add heavy cream and continue to simmer for 10 minutes until liquid is thickened. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and ground  black pepper and add nutmeg to taste.
  • Remove veal chops from oven, allow to rest for 5 minutes. Serve, topped with sauce, garnished with chives or fresh chopped thyme and any reserved Morels, as desired.

Notes

NOTE: Fresh morels aren’t always available, and, when they are, they are VERY expensive unless you are foraging them yourself. A good substitute is a high-quality dried morel. Use 2oz of dried for this recipe, and soak them in boiling water for 30 minutes before draining and continuing as directed. You can up the flavor of your dish by adding the strained mushroom soaking liquid to the beef broth, or use a beef broth concentrate with the soaking liquid. Another great option is to freeze the soaking liquid in ice cube trays and then bagging them and storing frozen for later use. You can drop a cube or two into a gravy, a soup, or anywhere you want a little extra pop of ‘shroomy flavor. 

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