that’s a morel

When I received dried morels as a gift, I set them aside for some time and consideration. I adore mushrooms and these fungi, with their clean-dirt aroma and nutty flavor, deserved proper celebration. On a winter night during a particularly damp weather week, we found ourselves craving these jewels of the wet earth and I brought them out from hibernation.

Daniel Boulud's cod with morels and asparagus

Morels go particularly well with the richness of butter or cream, so this cod recipe from Daniel Boulud was an obvious choice. Paired with fresh asparagus and sweet pearl onions, the delicate cod is not overpowered by any one flavor and the result is elegant and harmonious.

mise en place at B's (with beer)

Initially, I was nervous that a recipe from the renowned chef would require intricate technique and specialty ingredients that would be too overwhelming for me on a weeknight, but this delightful recipe was not too challenging and in fact was a joy to make. A good sign of fun in the kitchen: the enjoyment of an Anchor Steam while preparing the mise en place.

Using dried morels in place of fresh is quite easy (and just as flavorful), and I just reconstituted them in the cream called for in the recipe. From Wild About Mushrooms, The Cookbook of the Mycological Society of San Francisco by Louise Freedman:

“The intensity and character of the morel flavor is not lost in drying. We have used them after three years of storage and found them to be just as aromatic, if not more so, as when fresh.

Reconstitute them in hot water for 5 minutes or simmer them in cream until soft, about 15 minutes, not allowing the cream to boil. Always add the rehydrating liquid to the dish for which your morels are intended. A great deal of the flavor remains in the liquid.

When incorporating dried morels in a recipe calling for fresh specimens, use 3 ounces as the equivalent of 1 pound of mushrooms. Once reconstituted, they should be equal in volume.”

IMAroasted cauliflower with lemon-parsley dressing

To round out the meal, roasted cauliflower with lemon-parsley dressing  added some sweetness and zest to offset the creaminess of the cod’s sauce. This side would be a bold compliment to any other fish dish or Mediterranean style meal, or even the holiday table.

breakfast, lunch/dinner

the most magical time of year

I love this time of the year. I love the sparkling Christmas lights, the air infused with cinnamon and peppermint, the slivers of shiny gift wrap leftovers, the secretly good embarrassingly bad holiday movies and the bejeweled Christmas tree welcoming you home every evening with its warm glow. I love all of these things but certainly the best part of Christmas is spending it with loved ones (and finding your fingers visiting the cookie bowl…again). Last year was my first time ever hosting and it was ridiculously fun – I can’t wait to do it again.

Festive tins with holiday  cookies for munching absentmindedly while watching Love Actually for the 32nd time? Check.

Easy peasy Christmas breakfast with custardy Challah baked French toast and a sweet-tart berry compote that takes a handful of minutes to make? Check.

A fluffy egg frittata with a mixture of Gruyere and goat cheese, fresh herbs, and juicy tomatoes that you can whip up the night before and stick into the oven for a lazy breakfast? Check.

Fresh flowers for Christmas dinner? Check.

A classic side dish made elegant like savory crisp roasted Brussels sprouts with browned butter (and made even better with fresh sage)? Check.

A new favorite addition like creamy crunchy cauliflower gratin bubbling hot from the oven? Check.

And, of course, a perfectly roasted glorious bird (thanks Anna…and for the stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes and pillowy soft dinner rolls!) ready for carving as we sit down to dinner with jokes and stories (and red wine)? Check.

We made a Christmas, let’s do it again!