Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Getting the Creative Juices Flowing

My bar review class started today. I know - I can’t believe it either. Despite the fact that I am two weeks from finishing my school obligations, and almost a full month from graduation, I am somehow still expected to attend draining barbri classes and do barbri reading and summarize notes and oh so many other things. Though the next two weeks will be mighty painful, the rest of the summer is what I find truly terrifying right now. This is essentially going to be my life for the next eight weeks: class, summarize, read, study, repeat.

The bright spot within this is that my class is in the loop, with farmers markets within a couple of blocks twice a week. This means, at least, that I can take a few minutes after class each day to relax, roam leisurely between stands and take that time for myself. The stress will no doubt build as the weeks before the exam turn into days and the opportunity to see what looks good, to talk to people, to figure out what to do with these goodies I pick up, even if it is just once a week, will hopefully be able to get my creative juices flowing at least enough to keep me sane.

This week at the farmer’s market, it was morel mushrooms and purple asparagus. The wonders of morels espoused by nearly every internet source in existence. I have tried them a couple of times though I had never cooked with them before. My plan at first was to simply sauté them and toss them with cream, a la Orangette, But I felt that wouldn’t spread the joy enough, since I don’t really have the money to buy a ton of morels, at least not enough to satisfy should I have served them piled atop toast.

Instead a decided to team them up with the purple asparagus and let them mingle among strands of pasta in a light cream sauce. I threw in some chicken for good measure, sprinkled some chopped chives and grated parmesan and it was delicious. Hopefully all my after-class ventures will be this rewarding.

Fettuccine with Chicken, Morels and Asparagus
Serves 4

This dish was light in spite of its cream base and truly tasted of spring. The pasta could have used a more generous helping of morels, but my wallet could also use a more generous helping of money.

10 ounces fettuccine
12 ounces chicken tenderloins
Olive Oil
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb asparagus, purple or otherwise
5 medium sized morels, gently cleaned and sliced crosswise
1 ½ cups dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
Fresh chives, for garnish
Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Boil a large pot of water. Place the asparagus in the boiling water and cook until bright green and crisp-tender. Don’t overcook them and allow them to become soft. Remove from the water and place in an ice bath or run under cold water to stop the cooking. I cook the asparagus still in the rubber band to make this process easier. After the asparagus are done, drop the fettuccine into the boiling water.

As the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and melt one tablespoon of butter in one tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt and pepper and brown in skillet, about 5 minutes per side, ensuring that chicken is cooked through (juices will run clear). Remove chicken from heat and set aside on a platter.

Lower the heat to medium. Heat three tablespoons of butter, add shallots and allow to cook for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic. When garlic becomes fragrant, add the morels; cook until soft. Pour the wine into the skillet and cook down a bit, about 2-3 minutes. Add the cream, bring to a boil and cook until mixture is reduced by half. As the sauce reduces, cut the chicken and asparagus into bite-sized pieces.

Once sauce is just about reduced, melt in another tablespoon of butter if you think the sauce needs thickening, then add the chicken and asparagus to the sauce and toss until warm. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the cooked pasta and toss in sauce to coat. Divide among plates and garnish with chives and parmesan cheese.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm with you, I only buy about 1/4 lb. of morels at a time... but there is hope, the price should come down a little bit as the season continues. Your pasta sounds delicious! If you're looking for other recipe ideas, we just had a mushroom recipe contest and got a ton of submissions using morels! You can see all the recipes at MarxFoods.com. Best of luck this summer!