While porcini hunting recently, I had good luck finding some exceptionally large morels in one drainage, with several larger than my hand. I found most of them near the elevation limit of the fruiting porcini, and I suppose if I had kept going up I might have found a bunch more, but my heart was set on porcini, so I picked these as a satisfying bonus—and made sure to mark my maps with notes for further investigation another time.
I got three meals out of these collateral morels, including this lamb dinner for six that also boasted the last gasp of my in-city miner’s lettuce patch. The miner’s lettuce I added to a salad of tender spring greens from the garden, which got topped with three large squares of semolina and chive gnocchi. For the gnocchi recipe, click here. The grilled lamb graced the gnocchi with a ladle of morel sauce completing the picture. Really, it was an insanely good meal, and not nearly as difficult to prepare as all these instructions might suggest. Semolina gnocchi is a piece of cake, much easier than potato gnocchi, and the morel sauce is fairly intuitive if you’ve ever made a sauce before. Mascarpone is a nice trick for replacing heavy cream; a little goes a long way and it’s a useful thickening agent.
Season lamb with salt and pepper. Whisk together remaining ingredients and brush on both sides of lamb. Marinate 2 hours, then grill.
Morel Wine & Herb Sauce
1 lb morels, halved (or quartered if large)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter, divided
1 large shallot, diced
1 cup red wine
1 oz porcini, pulverized
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 heaping tbsp mascarpone (or 1/4 cup heavy cream)
splash Madeira, to taste (optional)
salt and pepper
Reconstitute porcini ahead of time in warm water and set aside for 30 minutes. Heat olive oil and 1 tbsp butter in skillet, then add diced shallot and morels. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes over medium-high heat before pouring in red wine. Reduce by two-thirds, then add porcini stock, herbs, and a splash of Madeira. Lower heat to medium and cook several more minutes to reduce by half or so. Just before serving, stir in remaining butter and mascarpone. The sauce should thicken nicely and the butter will lend it an attractive sheen. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with that red wine you’ve been saving for a special meal. Serves 4-6.