Spring has been a bit of tease in the Seattle area this year. February brought a spate of warm days, but before long it had cooled off and the rain came back. Sure, we’ve had some incredible days since then, but on the whole I’d characterize this as a cooler, wetter spring. And last night, it hailed like no one’s business – and it was cold enough that the hail WAS STILL ON THE GROUND THIS MORNING. It looked like it had snowed. I decided not to take any pictures, so that I could pretend it hadn’t happened, but the damage is done. My basil – which was just starting to sprout – is completely flattened, and it doesn’t look like recovery is likely. Fortunately most of my other seedlings were larger and look like they’ll make a recovery, but it was still disheartening.
Thankfully, spring brings a lot of good along with the not-so-good. Morels and asparagus are right near the top of the list of good things that grow in Washington in the early spring (rhubarb is another one). Although I’m pulling this out right at the last minute (yet again) I’d decided on this recipe early in the month. I just had to wait for morels to come to the market. Yesterday, on a lunchtime walk through Pike Place Market, I spotted morels – picked yesterday near Chehalis – and asparagus from Yakima. Good thing, since the month is nearly over!
Although my husband forages for chanterelles in the fall, we haven’t found a good spot for morels, so we’re stuck with buying them. Unfortunately they aren’t exactly cheap, but they sure make a good spring treat. This recipe was a good way to use them – the combination of morels and asparagus is a good one, and – although I wasn’t convinced it would work – the goat cheese complemented the flavors quite well. Paired with some homemade fettuccine, this made for a great (if not exactly a beautiful) dinner at the end of a long week. If I happen across a patch of morels, this recipe will definitely be in the running for another dinner.
True to form, I made some adaptations to the recipe, but I didn’t alter it significantly. Most of my changes involved the dairy products – I decreased the amount of the butter and cheese and swapped half and half for the cream (primarily because I didn’t have cream and wasn’t about to make another stop on my way home). I had a small package of dried morels from last year so I used the liquid from soaking them in place of the chicken stock, and I used two full bunches of asparagus. The original recipe is available at Epicurious; the recipe as I made it is below.
Fettuccine with Morels, Asparagus, and Goat Cheese
Slightly adapted from Gourmet, May 1992
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup liquid from soaking dried morels
- 1/2 pound fresh morels, washed and trimmed, cut to bite size as necessary (plus a half cup of dried morels, reconstituted)
- 1/4 cup half and half
- 1/2 cup mild goat cheese, crumbled
- 2 bunches asparagus (about 1 lb), trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- handful minced fresh chives
- salt and pepper to taste
- cooked fettuccine (I used homemade, but this would be good with dried fettuccine as well)
Sautee the shallot in the butter over medium heat until softened but not browned. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, then add the mushroom soaking liquid and the mushrooms. Simmer, covered, until the mushrooms are tender (about 10 minutes). While the mushrooms are cooking, blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water until tender but not soft (about 2 minutes), then drain immediately. Add the half and half and goat cheese to the mushrooms, reduce the heat to low, and then stir until the cheese is dissolved. Add the asparagus and chives, season to taste, then toss with the cooked fettuccine and serve immediately.
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