Creamy Pasta with Morel Mushrooms

When someone offers you wild mushrooms, don’t ever refuse!  These beauties came home with my neighbors from Door County, in northern Wisconsin, and I made very good use of them.  My favorite food writer/chef, David Tanis, had just written about morels in his New York Times column.  So I knew exactly how I wanted to prepare mine.  We had them as a side dish for dinner, cooked with chicken stock, shallots, creme fraiche, and a touch of sherry, and used as a sauce for fresh fettuccine.  The mushrooms were delicious and the sauce was utter perfection.  Of course, if you don’t have access to wild morels, you can always make this pasta with whatever combination of fresh and wild mushrooms are available.  But morels are the ultimate harbinger of spring and so worth seeking out.  Try to find a mushroom forager in your neighborhood, then make this pasta.  Enjoy!

Creamy Pasta with Morel Mushrooms
(makes 6 rich and satisfying servings)
1/2 pound wild morel mushrooms (or other available wild fresh mushrooms)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large shallots, finely diced
1 fat garlic clove, minced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 pound fettuccine, pappardelle, or other pasta
4 egg yolks
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely sliced chives
Trim the stems from the mushrooms and cut them into halves or quarters.  Swish them briefly in a large bowl of warm water; lift them out and blot dry on paper towels.  Set aside.  In a wide skillet, over medium-high heat, melt the butter.  Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften and brown.  Add the mushrooms and garlic to the pan and season generously with salt and pepper.  Cook for another minute or two then add the sherry.  Let it bubble down a bit then add the chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about five minutes.  It will look quite saucy.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Stir in the creme fraiche and turn off the heat.  Boil the pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente.  While the pasta cooks, beat the egg yolks, lemon juice, and lemon zest together in a small bowl.  Drizzle the egg mixture into the mushroom sauce and stir over low heat until slightly thickened, taking care not to curdle the mixture.  Divide the pasta amongst warmed bowls and spoon the sauce over.  Mix the fresh chopped herbs together and sprinkle generously over each bowl.  Serve immediately.
(adapted from David Tanis, “City Kitchen”, the New York Times)


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