This past weekend I made a very quick trip to Philadelphia, for an event that was kinda, sorta held in my honor by a person who was the model for one of the main characters in my Philadelphia-based Museum Mystery series.
|One of the Reading Terminal Market|
Since the hotel where I was staying was right next door, I had to visit the Reading Terminal Market again. Twice. I can't stay away. Yes, I know I bored you with the fish recently, but this time I was hunting for mushrooms. (This just might have something to do with the fact that Level Best Books will be publishing a short story of mine in November called "Kept in the Dark," which is about…a Pennsylvania mushroom farmer.)
And I found mushrooms, beyond the standard button and shitake and portabello. I found fresh morels! Jack Czarnecki, the former proprietor of the beloved Joe's Restaurant in Reading, Pennsylvania, where I was privileged to eat many years ago (alas, it moved to the West Coast), called morels "aristocrats of the forest," right up there alongside truffles. So of course when I see morels, I buy them—and celebrate!
So what to do with a lovely batch of fresh morels? I turned to Jack Czarnecki's lovely cookbook, A Cook's Book of Mushrooms, for inspiration and found a simple pasta dish that highlights the flavor of the mushrooms (note that this is inspired by the original recipe, not a copy).
6 ounces pasta (you may use plain, spinach, or tomato or a mixture). I had some amusing artisanal pasta that came in a jumble of diverse shapes, so I just picked out about six ounces of the shapes I liked (and I've got lots left), including butterflies
2 Tblsp. vegetable oil or melted butter
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tblsp. soy sauce
½ cup beef bouillon
1 Tblsp. arrowroot (if you have it; if not, use cornstarch, but sparingly) mixed with one Tblsp. cold water
Bring about 6 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to your taste
While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil or butter in a skillet. Add the shallot and sauté over medium heat for about a minute, until it softens. Add the sliced morels and sauté gently until the liquid is drawn from the mushrooms. Stir in the salt, sugar, soy sauce and stock. Simmer for another minute, then add the arrowroot mixture and cook gently until the sauce thickens.
Drain the pasta, place in a bowl, and toss with the morel mixture. Serve immediately. In the amounts given here, it served two. The available morels were the limiting factor (and they were delicious!).