Nothing in the food world better indicates the coming of spring than the arrival of the wild foraged morel mushroom, the ramp (a wild leek), and the fiddlehead fern. if you are a passionate foodie, you know all three well. If you do not know them, you should. But many think that they don't have the skills to use such culinary enigmas. Fact is, they are very easy to cook and incorporate into recipes - and the unique tastes will wow you and your guests.
Ramps are among the most revered spring delicacies for many chefs. A flury of new items briefly show up on menus isslustrating the chefs' love of this garlicy, oniony, totally different and enticing flavor.
First, because you will love them so much, finding ways to preserve them is an important consideration and exercise. One such way to freshly and easily do this is to make ramp butter.
After a quick dip in boiling water (which helps to take the edge off their raw garlicky bite), ramps are pureed into creamy sweet butter, then rolled into thick logs to chill, locking in that unmistakable wild taste, until it’s released in a warm, melting flood of flavor. Once made, ramp butter will keep for several weeks if kept tightly wrapped and refrigerated, but when kept frozen, ramp butter can be stored with no loss of flavor or quality for many, many months.
Spaghetti with Ramp Butter and Morel Mushrooms
For those who love the wild flavors of two spring companions, morel mushrooms and ramps, this is comfort food at its very best. It’s even easier if you already have the ramp butter made in advance and ready to go. We love twirling long strands of spaghetti, but any pasta will do.
You might be tempted to skip the toasted bread crumbs, but please don’t. The crispy crunch and warm, toasty-nutty flavor adds so much appeal that it would be an altogether different dish without them.
- 1/4 lb fresh morel mushrooms
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 8 oz spaghetti (or other pasta)
- 4 Tbsp Ramp Butter (Find To-Table Ramps Here)
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Toasted Bread Crumbs (see below)
- 2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
When using fresh morels, clean them by immersing them in cold salted water for 15 – 20 minutes. This will help to remove any dirt or forest debris from the honeycomb-like body of the mushrooms, and will also “encourage” any insect hitchhikers to vacate the premises. Lift the morels into a colander and gently rinse under cool running water. Lay out on a clean kitchen towel to drain completely.
Slice the morels lengthwise into halves or quarters, depending on size. Melt the 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. When it begins to bubble, add the morels. Cook until the morels have released their liquid and most of it has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Cook the pasta according to instructions, then drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Return the pasta to the pot along with 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water, the ramp butter and the morels, along with their butter and juices, and cook over moderate heat until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about one to two minutes. If the pasta seems too dry, add more of the reserved cooking liquid. Divide the pasta and morels between serving plates and top generously with grated parmesan cheese, crisp toasted bread crumbs and fresh parsley.
Toasted Bread Crumb Topping:
- 1 cup panko or bread crumbs
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- sea salt to taste
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the panko or bread crumbs, stirring to coat evenly with the butter. Stir and shake the pan continuously until the crumbs are golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add salt to taste. Store any unused toasted crumbs in a tightly sealed container.
Scalloped Potatoes With Ramps
3 cups fresh To-Table Ramps, cleaned and sliced
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Butter a 1 1/2 quart casserole and put in a layer of sliced potatoes, followed with a layer of ramps and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Repeat with remaining ingredients, ending with a layer of potatoes.
Mix the chicken stock and heavy cream and pour into the casserole covering the potatoes and ramps.
Preheat the oven to 375° and bake covered for 45 minutes.
Remove the cover, top with grated cheese and return to the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Serves 6 to 8.
Pasta with Morels, Ramps, Asparagus & Goat Cheese
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup chicken stock
½ pound fresh To-Table Morel mushrooms, washed, trimmed, patted dry and sliced crosswise
½ cup heavy cream
6 oz goat cheese, crumbled
¾ pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into ½ inch pieces, then cooked in boiling salted water for two to three minutes
¼ cup minced fresh chives
¾ pound pasta
Cook the ramps in butter over medium low heat in a heavy skillet. When the ramps have softened, add the wine and simmer until the wine reduces by about half.
Add the chicken broth and the mushrooms, then simmer for about ten minutes, or until the mushrooms have become tender.
Add the cream and the goat cheese and cook over low heat, stirring until the cheese melts.
Stir in the cooked asparagus, chives, and the salt and pepper. Keep the sauce warm.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions and drain thoroughly.
Toss the pasta with the sauce and serve piping hot.
Chicken Breasts with Ramps, Morels, and White Wine
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/4 cup To-Table Ramps, cleaned, trimmed, and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon dry white wine
1 teaspoon French mustard
2-3 tablespoons sour cream
4 boned chicken breasts
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups salad greens
Wild Rice with Morels and Ramps
1 ½ cups To-Table wild rice
3 ¼ cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 To-Table Ramps, chopped
2 cups sliced fresh To-Table Morel mushrooms
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a large saucepan combine the water and the rice, bringing to a boil over high heat. Cover and remove from heat, allowing it to stand for at least 20 minutes. Drain well and return the rice to the saucepan.
Add about 3 cups of the broth and bring to a boil again over medium-high heat. Stir, cover, and reduce the heat. Simmer gently for about 25 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.
While the rice is cooking, warm the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped ramps and sauté for about 3 minutes.
Add the sliced morels and sauté for another 3 minutes or so. Add the pepper and the remaining broth. Cover and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes.
Set the mushroom mixture aside until the rice is ready.
Add the rice to the pan and mix well.
Halibut with Morel Sauce
7 oz white wine
16 oz chicken stock
1-1/2 cup heavy cream
3 oz butter
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
4 To-Table halibut steaks
salt & freshly ground pepper
2 oz butter
Soak the dried morels in water and rinse in collander .
Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over a medium heat.
Season the halibut steaks with salt and freshly ground black pepper and add to the pan skin-side down. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until golden-brown and the fish is nearly cooked through, then turn the halibut steaks over and add the butter.
Reduce the heat and cook for another 1-2 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through. Set aside on a warm platter.
Place the morels and wine into a pan with the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Cook to reduce the liquid to about 1/2.
Add the heavy cream bring to near boiling point.
Add the butter and stir to combine.
To serve, place a halibut steak onto each plate and spoon over pan juices and the morel cream sauce.
Crab-stuffed Morel Mushrooms
½ cup To-Table Peektoe crabmeat
1 ½ cups bread crumbs
2 small or 1 large rib of celery, thinly sliced
1 small onion, finely diced
Zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
4 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water
Louisiana hot sauce, 4 dashes or to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1-2 Tbsp Madeira
1 Tbsp butter, melted
Cut the morels in half lengthwise to expose the hollow center. Prepare a large bowl of salted water by adding 2 Tbsp to a gallon of cold water and immerse the morels for about 40 minutes or up to 1 hour. Unlike many other mushrooms, morels do not readily soak up water. Wild morels come straight from the forest and their honeycomb structure can harbor grit and forest debris – not to mention the occasional creepy-crawly. The salted water is just the thing to convince any hitch hikers to move on.
Drain the morels, then rinse gently with cold water to flush away any remaining grit. Drain the morels again and lay them out on a tray lined with paper towels.
In a large bowl, combine the crabmeat, sliced celery, diced onion, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and thyme. Using a microplane grater or zester, finely grate the peel of one lemon and add it to the mixture. Personally, I prefer a microplane. The sharp little blades don’t dig deeply into the lemon rind, so you get just the aromatic peel – not the pithy white.
Beat the egg with the water and stir into the crabmeat mixture. Add the hot sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. The crabment mixture should be just moist enough to cling together when gently pressed into a spoon. If the mixture seems to dry, add a Tbsp or two of Madeira to moisten.
Brush the bottom of each morel half with a little of the melted butter and lay them out on a baking sheet. Scoop up a spoonful of the crabmeat mixture and press it firmly into the cavity of a morel half, mounding it up above the surface of the mushroom. Repeat with the remaining sliced morels until all have been filled and are laid out, slightly separated, on the baking sheet.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the crab-filled morel halves for about 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and the mushrooms are cooked through and tender.
Devour immediately. Try not to burn your mouth.
Grilled Veal Chops with Morel Sauce
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp aged Balsamic vinegar plus additional to taste if desired
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 pound To-Table Morel mushrooms, trimmed, washed, and patted dry
1/3 cup shallots, chopped fine
2 cups red wine
2 cups rich veal demi-glace
fresh lemon juice to taste
In a small saucepan, boil the water and sugar. Don't stir! When the liquid turns a golden caramel color remove from the heat and add the red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon of the balsamic vinegar by trickling it down the side of the pan. This will cause the mixture to kick up some bubbles and steam. Continue stirring for about 3 minutes, or until the caramel is dissolved. Remove from heat.
In a heavy saucepan over moderate heat, cook the morels in the butter. Continue to cook and stir until the liquid from the morels is evaporated. This should take about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the mushrooms to a bowl. Set aside.
Add the shallots to the mushroom pan and cook, stirring, until golden. Stir in the wine and boil until it's reduced to about 1 cup. This will take about 15 minutes. Add the veal stock and cook until it reduces to about 1 1/4 cups, which should take another 15 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the "caramel" mixture. Add the morels with salt and pepper to taste.
Stir in additional balsamic and lemon juice, if desired, just 1 teaspoon at a time.
For the Chops
6 To-Table veal chops, cut from hotel rack about 1 1/2 inch thick, at room temperature
extra virgin olive oil oil for rubbing on chops
Prepare the grill and preheat the oven to 425 F.
Rub the chops with the olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Place the grilling rack about 5 or 6 inches from glowing coals, then grill the chops until evenly browned. This should take no more than 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
Arrange the browned chops in a shallow baking pan and roast in the oven for about 15 minutes. The meat should be juicy and with a touch of pink.
Morel and Fiddlehead Fern Ragout
2 minced shallots
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 pound fresh To-Table Morel mushrooms, trimmed and rinsed
2 cloves minced garlic
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp shopped chives
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan curls, for a garnish
Bring 1 1/2 quarts of salted water to a boil and add the fiddlehead ferns. Return the water to a boil. Use a slotted spoon to remove the fiddleheads and dunk them in an ice bath. Drain and pat them dry.
In a medium sized skillet sauté the shallots in butter until softened. Add the fresh thyme, the morels, and the garlic. Continue to sauté until the mushrooms have softened and given up their liquid. This should take roughly three minutes. Continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Add the chicken stock and cook until it's reduced by about half.
Add the fiddleheads and cook for about two minutes.
Add the cream, the chives, and the parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve hot, garnished with the Parmesan curls.
Fettuccine with Morels and Breast of Pheasant
Pheasant is a very fine-grained and lean poultry with a mild flavor that goes exceptionally well with the other wild ingredients. If you can't find pheasant, substitute chicken.
Morel Cream Sauce
18-25 fresh To-Table Morel mushrooms, depending on size
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh To-Table Ramps
1 ¾ cup heavy cream
Sea salt & freshly ground white pepper to taste
nutmeg to taste
24 fresh To-Table Fiddlehead ferns
2 tablespoons butter
2 boned, skinned, and halved pheasant breasts from birds approximately 3 pounds each
Sea salt & freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons butter
To prepare the sauce:
Clean the morels thoroughly. Pat them dry and halve them lengthwise, then cut into small pieces.
Melt the butter in a skillet, adding the morels and ramps. Stir gently but continuously as they cook. When they begin to soften, add the cream.
Simmer, stirring often, until the sauce begins to thicken. This should take roughly 15 minutes. Season with salt, white pepper, and nutmeg to taste.
Drop the Fiddlehead Ferns into boiling salted water, cooking until they're tender, but not soggy, about 5 minutes. Drain well and toss in butter.
To cook the Pheasant:
About ½ hour before serving time, sprinkle the pheasant with salt and pepper.
Heat the butter in a large, heavy skillet. When the butter begins to foam, add the pheasant breasts and brown lightly, about 5 minutes.
Turn and cook the pheasant over moderately low heat until they are barely cooked in the center.
Cooking them any longer will cause them to toughen and dry. Remove them from the skillet and allow them to sit for five minutes.
Cook enough fettuccine pasta to serve four people.
Toss the hot pasta with ¾ of the sauce.
Slice the pheasant breasts into 6 vertical slices and "fan" them over the pasta.
Top with the remaining sauce and surround with the fiddleheads.
Fresh Whitefish with Fiddleheads and Ramps
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 To-Table Chilean Sea Bass fillets, about 7 ounces apiece
fresh peppercorns to taste
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, diced
1/2 pound fresh To-Table Fiddleheads
3/4 cup fresh To-Table Ramps, cleaned, trimmed, and diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to about 375° F.
Combine the wine and the Dijon in a baking dish that's about three inches deep. It should be large enough to hold the fish in one layer.
Place the fish in the baking dish and pour the wine over the top. Flip the fish over to cover both sides with wine. Arrange them skin sides down. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme.
Sprinkle the fiddleheads and the ramps over the top of the fish. Cover the dish and place in the oven for about 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and arrange a bed of ramps and fiddleheads on a hot serving platter. Place the fish on the top.
Swirl the butter into the cooking liquid and pour it over the top of the fish. Serve immediately.
Sautéed Fiddleheads with Pancetta
½ pound To-Table Pancetta, diced into ¼ inch pieces
salt and freshly ground pepper
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add the fiddlehead ferns. Blanch for about 5 minutes, then drain thoroughly.
Use a large heavy skillet to cook the pancetta over medium heat until browned.
Add the fiddleheads and sauté for about two minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.