Thursday, July 24, 2008
Morel & Truffle Sauce
I love Antonio Carluccio, he is exactly the sort of grandfather every child should have, warm, affable and a great story teller. You could just imagine the look of horror on their faces as he recounted the time he ate some casu marzu, that's Sardinian maggot cheese to you and me! Another reason I like him is that he is a master of the quiet hunt, a well known forager for mushrooms of all descriptions, who has been picking since he was seven.
Carluccio has also written a couple of invaluable books on mushrooming complete with recipes. Two of his favourite mushrooms are truffles and morels, members of the important ascomycetes group of funghi, which also includes yeasts as well as the mould Penicillium chrysogenum from which penicillin is derived.
Truffles and morels differ from other mushrooms in that instead of dropping their spore, they are contained in internal sacs called asci and are explosively discharged when ripe. In truffles, these asci are contained in ascoma, the little bumps that give truffles their characteristic warty appearance.
Possibly because they are members of the same family, truffles and morels are interchangeable in some recipes, sauce Perigueux from France being one example. What Carluccio has done is to extravagently combine both mushrooms into a dish which has an astonishing depth of flavour. Served with homemade pasta, it is simply incomparable.
Morel & Truffle Sauce
(adapted from The Complete Mushroom)
50g dried morels, soaked in hot water (about 20 minutes), soak water retained
2 shallots, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
500ml homemade chicken stock
150ml double cream
salt & fresh ground pepper
25g fresh Perigord truffle, thinly sliced
Drain the morels, trim the bases and roughly chop them. Melt the butter in a large pot and sweat the onion and garlic until soft, but not coloured, then add the chopped morels and sweat for 2 minutes more. Add the brandy and ignite, when the flames have died down add the morel soak water and bring to the boil and reduce until the soak water is almost gone, then add the chicken stock and cook at a slow boil until slightly reduced and the flavour concentrated. Take off the heat and add the cream, salt and pepper, then process in a blender until smooth. Pour back into the cleaned out pot and gently reheat. Take off the heat, add the truffle slices and leave to infuse for several minutes. Cook homemade pasta* until done, then mix it in a bowl with some sauce, divide into plates, spoon more sauce over along with a sprinkling of parmesan or pecorino.
*Carluccio recommends handerkerchief pasta, which are simple squares of about 7.5cm (3"), but any shape will work too. He also advises to thinly dice the truffle, but I like the look of thin slices.