This time last year
, morel mushrooms
were not only taking over the forest floors, they were taking over my kitchen, filling in every last square inch of counter space. As the rain kept up a steady deluge throughout all of May and June, they cheered me up with their honeycombed coneheads and their woodsy aroma.
A lone morel in a sea of fresh grass. That's how the season rolled for me.
Some of last year's yellow morels.
This year I barely got out hunting at all. I blame it on the weather. I blame it on knee surgery, which kept me hobbled during the peak hunting weeks. I blame it on soccer (if you are a soccer mom, you'll understand).
A full day of foraging, and just enough morels for one spectaular dish.
I did manage to forage enough morels for one great dish. Just one. My precious, humble bowl of morels needed one memorable, decadent, earthy and heartwarming dish to both usher in and usher out the season.
I reached for the heavy cream. Some Yukon gold potatoes. A handful of tarragon from my fledgling spring herb garden. Young tender garlic and an onion which I slowly braised until it turned the color of toffee.
Morel Potato Gratin with Tarragon Garlic Cream was born: A creamy potato gratin is the perfect match for the decidedly fall-like nip in the air, and the death-to-seedlings frosty weather we've been having.
We couldn't get enough of the Morel Potato Gratin, so I kept making it with my stash of dried morels from last spring.
If your morel hunting was less than spectacular this spring, make this dish with the dried morels you no doubt have stashed away from last year. Dried mushrooms work just as well in this creamy potato gratin.
Morel Potato Gratin with Tarragon Garlic Cream, just out of the oven, and waiting to be sprinkled with fresh tarragon.
Any morel mushrooms harvest, no matter how small, is a cause for celebration. So gather your mushrooms and gently braise them in cream and garlic while caramelizing slivers of onion. Pour the creamy decadence over thinly sliced potatoes, dabble with tarragon leaves, and bake. Savor the aroma of the woods and the earth as you pull it from the oven. Feed your potato gratin to people you love, and eat very, very slowly.
For a printable version of the recipe, click on the file below it.
Morel Potato Gratin with Garlic Tarragon Cream
This dish should probably serve at least 6 people, but when serving morels spiked with cream, garlic and potatoes, your guess is as good as mine. No matter how many are coming to dinner, there will be no leftovers.
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup chicken broth, homemade if possible
- 1/2-1 cup fresh morels, cleaned and cut into halves or quarters, or 1 ounce dried morels
- 3 teaspoons minced garlic, from about 3 medium cloves
- 4-5 Yukon gold potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick (use a mandolin if you have one)
- 1 yellow onion, sliced very thin
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, chopped, or fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375 ºF, and butter a 12 x 9 inch ovenproof baking dish. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the heavy cream and chicken broth to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Add the garlic and the morels. Simmer gently without the lid until the liquid has reduced by about 1/3, stirring occasionally so the garlic does not stick to the bottom of the pan, for about 30 minutes.
- Place the sliced potatoes in a large bowl, and set aside.
- To caramelize the onions: Warm the olive oil and butter over medium heat in a large frying pan. Once the butter bubbles, add the onions and stir. Reduce the heat to low, and cook the onions, stirring occasionally until they start to brown, about 20 minutes. Add the sherry vinegar and cook a few more minutes, until deeply golden. Set aside.
- Pour the cooked cream over the potatoes and gently toss.
- Add the caramelized onions, tarragon, and the salt. Gently toss.
- Pour the potato mixture into the baking dish, season with a few turns of the pepper grinder, and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 50 minutes.
- Test for doneness by stabbing a potato slice with a knife; if still firm, bake another 5-10 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.
- Garnish with a sprinkle of tarragon or thyme before you bring it to the table. Eat hot, warm or cold.
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I found lots of mushrooms this spring that were not morels.