9.28.2013

The Morel of the Story

This recipe calls for morels. I guess the 'morel' of this story is that if a recipe calls for really expensive and difficult-to-find ingredients like fresh morels, it is our job as cooks to come up with options that are readily available and don't break the bank.

The first time I made this dish, I did use fresh morels. They were good and, as an aside, very photogenic.

But when I went to buy morels last week to make it for Patrician's birthday dinner, morels weren't available and I made it with quartered cremini mushrooms. I liked it equally as well for both taste and texture.

I think this has taught me that expensive or rare ingredients can easily be substituted if they are neither affordable nor available.

I love the subtle combinations of flavors in this dish - saffron steeped in rosé wine for the poaching, mushrooms, fava beans and peas - all so earthy and savory. It gets so creamy, too, with very little cream. (That's "very little" with a grain of salt...) I decided that a little crunch was needed at the end - so added some crisped tiny cubes of pancetta. The perfect topping!

By the way, any dish with copious amounts of saffron is A.O.K. by me! The original recipe didn't even call for it, but I found it adds a wonderful depth to both the broth and the sauce. Buying my saffron by the ounce online makes it very affordable. About $55-$60 per ounce on Amazon (as opposed to $10-$15 per gram in stores).

While I don't often make things with cream sauces, there are times it is just the right thing. This birthday party was one of those times. And it also afforded me the opportunity to set the table with our new sauce spoons, wedding gifts from our friends Jill & Dave and Dan & Mike.

The cooking time for this dish is minimal; all the ingredients can be prepped in advance. A few minutes in your kitchen is all you need, while your guests continue to nibble on hors d'œurvres.

And those few minutes in the kitchen give you a chance to make sure the rosé you have chosen tastes just as good in a glass as it does in the creamy sauce.

~ David

Poached Salmon with Peas, Fava Beans and Morels

4 6-ounce center-cut salmon fillets, skinned (about 1 1/4-inch thick)

1 cup rosé wine
2 teaspoons kosher salt plus more for seasoning
1 teaspoon saffron threads, divided
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces fresh morel (whole) or cremini mushrooms (quartered)
1 cup shelled fresh (or frozen) peas
1 cup double-shelled fresh (or frozen) fava beans
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives 

1/2 cup diced pancetta
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
4 sprigs of thyme


Place salmon, skinned side down, in a large high-sided skillet. Add wine, 2 tablespoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads and cold water to cover salmon by 1/2 inch. Cover pan; bring liquid to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, uncover, and gently poach salmon until just cooked through and barely opaque in the center, about 3-5 minutes, depending on thickness. Transfer salmon and 2 tablespoons poaching liquid to a plate; tent loosely with foil. Reserve poaching liquid.


Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup salmon poaching liquid, peas, fava beans, thyme leaves and remaining 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, and simmer until peas and beans begin to soften, 2-3 minutes. Add cream and bring sauce to a simmer. Cook until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. 

 

While sauce is simmering, heat the pancetta and olive oil in a small non-stick pan, and sauté until crisp. (Pancetta can be crisped ahead and left to drain on a paper towel.)

Using a spatula, transfer salmon to serving plates and spoon sauce over, dividing the mushrooms and vegetables evenly. Garnish with chives, pancetta, and thyme sprigs.


Serves 4. 


For Patrician, I went over the top and garnished with crisped tiny cubes of pancetta.







I found these really cute mini heads of romaine - perfect for a composed salad.
 

34 comments:

  1. Oh David, this is just too beautiful. Stunning colours and textures. I spotted some fresh morels when we were in NYC. I picked one up, smelled & savoured it and put it back down. Now I wish I bought some to cook something!

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    1. Thanks, John! I can never resist hard-to-find wild mushrooms wherever I am. You definitely have more self control than I!

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  2. David, what a beautiful presentation of your salmon and morels - of course, I love that play on words and all those fabulous pics - particularly, the one of the saffron threads -saffron is a real treasure and so are fresh morels (or dried ones) - what a great combination of flavors! And all those pretty plates and spoons!
    Hope all is going well in beautiful Venice!
    Ganz viele liebe Grüße aus Bonn,
    Andrea

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    1. Andrea - with the amount of saffron I use, this blog should have been called Cocoa and Lavender and Saffron! Glad you enjoyed it! Allies gut in Venedig! Auch Liebe Grüße!

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  3. This looks delicious! I am not sure I will be able to find the morels, but I will certainly look. Merci!

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    1. Thanks, Kirsten - I imagine morels should be coming into season soon. At least I hope so - I want to make this again!

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  4. It's amazing how much more gourmet your dish made at home is than anything you'd find in a restaurant! Cooking at home does allow us access to wonderful ingredients that restaurants aren't often willing to invest in, This is a beautiful meal worthy of a special celebration!

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    1. Agreed, Susan! I never see anything like this on most menus... I am hoping for fresh porcini and maybe an early truffle while in Italy!

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  5. I grew up in northern Michigan where morels are plentiful. In fact, there is a town that hosts an annual festival in honor of the beloved fungus. Your salmon dish looks and sounds lovely.

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    1. Wow - you are so lucky Cory! I didn't realize they were a Michigan specialty. What time of year is the festival? I might have to attend some year...

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    2. Here's the link to the town's website. I have to warn you. It's a classic small town site...aka. it's probably never changed since the internet was invented. Enjoy! :) http://www.mesick-mushroomfest.org/

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    3. Thanks, Cory! The Mesick Mushroom Festival looks like fun! I may need to go some May.

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  6. You are such a food artist David. Beautiful, from a textural point of view, as well as colour, flavour, composition... amazing. I've never eaten a morel mushroom. Truffles, yes, most other mushrooms, yes, but never an illusive morel. Good to know that the other mushrooms were a delicious substitution. I often substitute expensive, hard-to-find ingredients with other things. You're completely right about buying ingredients online though, it's made it so much easier to get affordable touches of 'luxury'. I'm loving the ease of internet spice shopping in particular :) Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

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    1. Thanks, Laura! Sometimes when I write, I am not sure what is available where. I think of morels as very French, yet apparently they grow well here in the US, too. Who knew? You have all sorts of fun things that grow Down Under that we never see here!

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  7. Wowza! That's pretty bunch of ingredients. (I love that you talk about a mushroom as being photogenic!)

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    1. You know, Valentina, I love photographing two things most of all - eggs and mushrooms. I really do think they are seriously photogenic!

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  8. David, you always find the most interesting dishes.
    This is lovely. I have to get some morels this week!
    xo

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    1. Colette - I hope they are in season still!

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  9. Love that you are using your new wedding gifts! This looks beautiful, hope you're having an amazing time eating some amazing stuff in Italy!! xoxo

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    1. Thanks, Ahu! No one is starving here, for sure! And tomorrow I go to the Ralto market - I hear porcini are in season and I plan to have them at least twice! Glad you like the recipe!

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  10. What an interesting combination of textures and tastes and, as the readers before me have said, the final product is lovely. I look forward to hearing about your culinary discoveries in Venice!

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    1. I am headed to the market with a native Venetian this morning - he will introduce me to his fish monger, green grocer and butcher. I can't wait! I know - since mushrooms were an important part if this post - that porcini mushrooms (and a few other local varieties) will play a big part in my culinary playtime!

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  11. David,we are so happy to see your great recipes again....about this post,the title,writing,food clicks and absolutely gorgeous recipe...glad we could go through all these perfections...seriously we feel inspired...so much of thoughtful creativity, warm hosting and of course love for saffron goes into making this adorable post...Bravo!!! loved the ease and beautiful combination of flavors and textures in this dish,thanks :-)

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    1. Thank you kind friends! I am so honored that you enjoyed this post so much. I had a feeling we would share a love of saffron! :) It is truly one of the great flavors of the world!

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  12. Gorgeous recipe and ingredients David! I have never tired a Morel, but hope to one day as I hear they are divine. I do, however have a decent supply of saffron which I am dying to use. This looks just stunning.

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    1. Thanks, Anna! With your saffro supply, I suggest you try is with any wild mushroom you can find!

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  13. What a wonderful meal you prepared. If it was half as good as it is beautiful, then it had to be incredibly delicious.

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    1. Thanks, Karen - I can't wait till morels are in season to have it again!

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  14. This is absolutely stunning! Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Velva

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Velva - and for your very kind comments!

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  15. Mmmm... morels, fava beans and saffron, wow! I still remember the first time I had morels, so much flavor and so unique. They're so worth the splurge David! And really, if you start cutting corners you can't use the saffron either, so I say it's all or nothing. All for me, please!

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    1. Paula - you are so sweet to leave such a kind message, especially when I know you were desperately thinking about what protein you could use to replace the salmon! :) I bet chicken wildlife be good!

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  16. David this dish is mouth watering!

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