It’s morel mushroom season and foragers can be seen scouring the woods for these disgustingly beautiful fungi that only make their appearance for a couple of weeks out of an entire year. The best of foragers have their “spots” as they call them and are hesitant to let anyone know when they start to “pop.”
It’s during this week that it becomes a race to find the most treasured of earthly sponge like fungus that tastes like heaven when consumed.
My first encounter with the morel was in my high-school years when I had just moved to Iowa from California. During that time my friends and I would spend countless hours skateboarding through the streets of Des Moines. Yet, during the first week in May, we’d dissipate into the woods.
“We’re looking for mushrooms?” Was my first thought. “Yeah, Dahl’s will pay us $20 a pound!”
That’s all it took for us high-school kids to find our weight in gold. We’d carry in 2 or 3 large grocery store sacks filled with morel mushrooms. We were helping our local community… and our pockets.
It makes me laugh to think back to when I used to find so many purely for money. Dahl’s, our local grocery store, no longer takes them from regular everyday foragers, however, I now enjoy to scour the woods for morels to keep.
The fun in the sport is certainly the thrill of finding them and many people find large amounts to preserve by dehydrating or freezing.
To prepare, most people batter them up and fry them. They are equisite, however, I also enjoy to saute or braise them as they are a hearty fungus and their texture is something to be enjoyed.
With cream in the peak of it’s richness and tarragon exploding out of my containers I decided to make a creamy tarragon sauce to pour over braised chicken with morel mushrooms.
My original plans were to make this over a side of wild rice. As most things go in a house with small children, someone must have “accidentally’ thrown out my wild rice so I made due with what I had and paired this dish with tagliatelle pasta that was given to me by Nudo.
This is a beautiful dish that highlights the flavors of Spring. The sauce is brightened by the anise like herb of tarragon and the use of a Spanish Sherry “Fino” wine with a dash of lemon juice.
This dish can be enjoyed without the use of morel mushrooms, however, if morels grow in your area, I encourage you to get out there and scour the woods to find your weight in gold.
Here in Iowa, they’re still “popping!”
Creamy Tarragon Sauce Over Braised Chicken with Morel Mushrooms
- 3 chicken breasts, cut into 1/3
- 15-20 small morel mushrooms
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup chicken broth, preferably homemade
- 1 cup white Sherry wine, I used fino from Jerez
- 2/3 cup whole, fresh, cream
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 3 tbls freshly diced tarragon
- Salt and White Pepper to Season
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder or flour
1. If the morel mushrooms are dirty, soak in water for an hour and rinse thoroughly to rid of any dirt and debris.
2. In a deep skillet or cast iron pan, heat 2 tbls extra virgin olive oil. Add the chicken slices and brown for 3-5 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside.
3. Add an additional tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to the pan and the diced onion. Saute until translucent. Add the morel mushrooms and continue to saute until the onions begin to brown. Add the chicken back to the onion mixture and 1 cup of chicken broth.
4. Bring to a boil, reduce to low and cover. Braise for 20 – 30 minutes or until the chicken has cooked through.
5. Once the chicken has cooked through, remove the chicken and the morels from the pan, set aside and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
6. In the same pan, add 1 cup of sherry wine, 2/3 cup fresh cream, squeezed juice of 1/2 a lemon, tarragon, salt and white pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and incorporate 1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder or flour to thicken. Make sure to whisk quickly to avoid any lumps of powder in your sauce.
7. Serve the sauce over the chicken and morels on a bed of tagliatelle pasta or any mixture of rice.
8. Garnish with fresh sprigs of tarragon.