Thursday, March 01, 2007
A Morel Dilemma
Well, it looks like this must be just about the last entry for the month to Waiter, there's something in my...
I can't say its been exactly pie weather during a very hot February in Melbourne but I've eventually managed to pull it all together. There were a couple of false starts, Stargazy pie got a lot of thought, but after a long look through my library and a troll of the Internet couldn't find a recipe that actually sounded as if I would want to eat it, so I left Stargazy to the good people of Mouse.
Since I was into the unusual I thought about an offal pie featuring brains, but the hot weather put me off that idea as well. What was needed was something simple and classic, how about a chicken pie? Not any old chicken pie but one that involved a couple of other ingredients in a menage a trois, where each attends to the other needs and the sum becomes greater than the whole. A love-in if you like. But what things would propel chicken to orgasmic heights?
One of them was lurking in the pantry cupboard, well our linen press really. We are avid mushroomers and pick and dry a significant part of the forage. A couple of 2 litre preserving jars are full to the brim with prize morels. Chicken with morels is a timeless classic, one that makes for a very happy marriage, but do you think that either could say no to another partner, one that has been flirting with both, toying with their affections?
It was time to make the love circle complete.
The season for this particular vegetable is nearly over, what that means is the plump early spears have given way to slender stalks of asparagus, perfect for a pie. And asparagus is perfect for chicken and perfect for morels, the love triangle was set.
Now it is time for me to own up. Am I a leg or breast man? Each has there own undoubted attractive qualities and at times it can be impossible to choose betwixt. There is nothing so comely as smooth, rounded breasts - but that must be weighed against a shapely set of legs, full of promise and mystery. One could almost imagine Meatloaf singing one of his operatic ballads about being torn between the two. But not me, I'm a leg man.
So the chicken I chose for the pie was skinned and boneless marylands. Meat from the thigh has more flavour and can stand up to the cooking better than the breast meat which can so easily dry out. There is also another thing to consider. I know that I'm extremely fortunate in having some morel spots to pick and that if you have to purchase them, even though they are so worth it, they are very expensive. But if they are unavailable or out of price reach, this pie would still be good with regular button mushrooms, quartered. You could even add some anyway to bulk up the pie and make it a foursome after Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.
You have to decide where your morel centre is, that may be kind of hard after eating this pie.
CHICKEN PIE WITH MORELS & ASPARAGUS
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
50 g butter
1 kg skinned and boneless chicken marylands, cubed
20 dried morels, soaked in boiling water (retain the soak water)
100 g small button mushrooms, halved or quartered (optional)
1 heaped tablespoon flour
1 cup chicken stock
100 ml double cream
10 slender asparagus stalks, chopped in 1 cm segments
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
salt & fresh ground pepper
4 sheets bought puff pastry
Method: sweat the shallots and garlic in 25 g butter and when soft add the chicken cubes, soaked morels and button mushrooms if using and fry until lightly coloured. Meanwhile make a veloute sauce. Melt the remaining butter in a pot and add the flour, gently cook for a minute or two, then slowly add the hot chicken stock, whisking all the time, then add the cream, leave to simmer for ten minutes. When the chicken is lightly browned add the mushroom soak water and boil until nearly evaporated then add the veloute sauce, asparagus and parsley, season to taste and simmer for one minute, leave to cool. Line two pie dishes with the puff pastry and fill with the cooled pie mixture. Top with the other sheets of pastry, brush with eggwash and scallop the edges. Bake in a 220 c oven until the pie is a dark golden colour all over, if you pull it out too early the bottom pastry won't be cooked. Cool slightly, cut into wedges and serve.