Let me start by saying that this appetizer that I concocted was phenomenal! It ended up to be exactly what I had conceived. Rich and decadent crispy mushroom cakes with a creamy morel pate shmeared between two of them. They are served with a mozzarella-morel cream and topped with a tangy “relish” of roasted grape tomatoes, sauteed fennel dressed in a wonderful Pecorino-Romano dressing. This is one of my best creations EVER!
That being said, I’m not happy with the plating or the pictures…at all! I could just scream. I wanted this submission to the 2nd Annual Morel contest sponsored by Marx Foods to be totally perfect but as usual I didn’t leave myself any extra time to re-plate or re-photograph because it HAD to get done. ARGH! Why do I do this to myself? Why?
Okay, enough of THAT! What I did follows. I would highly recommend preparing ahead of time and not try to do this all in one day. It will make your life a lot easier. Consider yourself warned. It’s not difficult at all it is just a bit time consuming. I would first like to thank Justin and Elizabeth at Marx Foods for sending such a wonderful assortment of dried wild mushrooms and the fabulous dried morels all being highlighted here. These are really nice people with fantastic and very unique gourmet food products. They have a wonderful assortment of dried products like the mushrooms used here as well as chiles and fresh ingredients such as fiddle head ferns, ramps and morels. If you’ve never visited their website you really should. Let the voting begin and who ever wins the 2 pounds of fresh morels has to invite me over for dinner! Good luck to all who worked so hard!
Recipe: Wild Mushroom Cakes with Morel Mushroom Pate, Tomato-Fennel Relish and Mozzarella-Morel Cream
In two separate bowls, add 3 ounces dried morels to one and 6 ounces mixed mushrooms (chanterelles, matsutake and lobster in equal amounts) to the other. Cover each with boiling water and let soak at least 20-30 minutes. Strain and set aside to allow the mushrooms to dry off a bit.
In a small bowl, add 1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino-Romano Cheese. Add 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon good quality sherry vinegar and 1 tablespoon of hot tap water. Whisk vigorously until well combined. Set aside.
Cut grape tomatoes in half length wise and put on a cookie sheet. Drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper and toss. Turn all of the tomatoes cut side down and roast in the pre-heated oven until caramelized. Remove from oven and pour the tomatoes and any olive oil left on the cookie sheet into a bowl and set aside.
While the tomatoes are roasting, dice fennel and saute over medium-high heat in some olive oil until crisp-tender. Season lightly with salt and black pepper and add to the bowl with the roasted tomatoes. Reserve skillet to use again later. Drizzle approximately 2 tablespoons of the Pecorino dressing and toss gently. Check for salt and pepper then set aside until ready to plate.
In a skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add two minced shallots and saute until light golden in color. Add one small, minced garlic clove add saute 1 minute. Add 1/2 of the re-hydrated morels. Saute for a few minutes then add a splash of dry sherry (or two). Cook until the sherry is almost completely evaporated. Remove from heat and pour into your food processor. Add 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions and 1-2 tablespoons neufchatel cheese. Puree. You may want to add a little more sherry depending on your tastes.Check for salt and pepper. Spoon into a small bowl and set aside.
On a large plate, put 1-1/2-2 cups of panko bread crumbs and set aside.
In a large skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 8 ounces mixed mushrooms (chanterelles, matsutake and lobster in equal amounts), 4 ounces morels and 8 oz. fresh creminis, sliced. Saute over medium heat 5-7 minutes. Add 1 cup of chicken stock and 1 cup of reserved morel soaking liquid (the liquid should come half way up the mushrooms. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Remove lid and add 1 clove of minced garlic continue to cook until all of the liquid has evaporated. Take out of the pan roughly half of the morels and reserve. Put all of the remaining mushrooms into a food processor with 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup fresh parsley, and salt and pepper. You may need to add some plain dried bread crumbs if it ends up too wet. Coarsely chop everything. Form mixture into small cakes and press each side into the panko to lightly coat.
In a skillet, add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil then saute the cakes in batches. Keep warm in the oven until all are cooked.
In a food processor, add reserved morels, 3 ounces fresh mozzarella with 2 tablespoons of the juice that the cheese came in and 3 tablespoons olive oil and salt and white pepper. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl.
These are very rich so one stack is plenty per person. Spoon some mozzarella cream into a circle on your plates. Place one mushroom cake. Spread some pate on that and top with another cake. Top the stack with the tomato-fennel relish and garnish with a fennel frond. You can drizzle a little bit of the remaining Romano dressing over the top if desired.
Everything here can be made a day ahead except, obviously, the frying of the mushroom cakes. Just bring all to room temperature except the mozzarella cream, before proceeding.