Morels, Stracciatella & Toast


New Englanders know that it is not the spring equinox that tells us spring has sprung, but rather the Peter, Peter, Peter! trill of the tufted titmouse songbird, the steady drumming of the woodpecker, April showers, and the tiny heads of delft blue muscari pushing their way up through the muddy earth. These sounds and sights are the vanguards of soon to be smiling daffodils, apple blossoms, and morel mushroom season. Morels are uncultivated mushrooms that enjoy playing hide and seek with foragers. With an ability to hide in plain sight, these fungi deliver exactly what one might expect spring to taste like--woodsy, nutty, and foresty. After a long winter's nap, these meaty morsels are a treat worth hunting for (literally). If pulling on L.L. Bean boots and trekking over to the nearest woodland area or old apple orchard to forage seems ambitious, be ready to shell out some serious cash for the filet mignon of the mushroom world. The morel earns its reputation as a polite, tasteful, and wholly worthy of its price dinner guest that will absolutely be invited back. Another tell tale harbinger of spring is the arrival of stracciatella--stretched and shredded curd fresh mozzarella cheese. Essentially the rich buttery insides of burrata, this cheese is best when made with grass fed cow's milk and is the quality of cream that ultimately forms the stracciatella's unique texture and coveted taste. Find a good, crusty bread, top it with morels and stracciatella, sprinkle with the leaves of soft herbs, and spring on a plate has arrived about the same time the daffodils begin smiling.



1/2 pound fresh morels

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

1/4 cup shallot, thinly sliced

1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon tarragon leaves

1 tablespoon chervil sprigs

2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley leaves

2 tablespoons chives, 1/2" snipped

2 small sorrel leaves, stems removed, leaves torn into small pieces

1 small rustic sourdough loaf, 1/2" slices

Extra virgin olive oil

1 cup stracciatella (or burrata)

Maldon Sea Salt Flakes



1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Heat a 12" CAST IRON SKILLET over high heat for 2 minutes. Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter, and when the butter foams add the morel mushrooms to the pan and sauté them, stirring constantly for 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Lower the heat to medium and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and the thyme leaves. Cook until the morels begin to form a crispy exterior and the interiors are still tender (this can take anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes depending on the mushrooms moisture content).

4. Add the final tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Toss in the shallots and stir frequently until the shallots are tender. Squeeze a bit of lemon over the mushrooms (be conservative at first, more may be added to taste). Set the mushroom mixture aside. 

5. Place the tarragon, chervil, parsley, chives, and sorrel in a bowl and gently toss together. Set aside covered with a damp paper towel.

6. Put the bread on a half sheet baking tray and brush the bread slices with olive oil. Place in the oven until the tops are lightly golden but the interior of the bread is still soft.

7. Place the bread on a serving platter. Place a dollop of cheese on the bread and spread thickly across the surface. Top with the mushroom mixture and sprinkle with the reserved herbs.

8. Finish with a drizzle of the finest finishing olive oil available and a light dust of sea salt flakes.



Kitchen Notes

Small morels work best. Cut larger morels in half lengthwise. If morels are unavailable, a mix of mushrooms may be substituted. Burrata may be substituted for the stracciatella. Lemon thyme is particularly wonderful in this recipe. Splurge on the finest fruity extra virgin olive oil possible (avoid powerful Tuscan olive oil peppery flavors) for final drizzling.