Creamy Morel Chicken
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Growing up, I can remember spring was a busy time. The snow was finally melting, and there was a ton of work to take care of cleaning up everything that had been hiding under that snow for months. It was also a time to be outside and enjoying weather that wasn’t snow for a change – spring bear hunting, spring turkey hunting, the start of fishing season. And it also meant looking for morels.
Now, I never liked mushrooms at all as a kid. So I couldn’t really understand the excitement that morels seemed to cause. I remember piling in the old Ford and heading into the mountains to drive up and down roads barely wider than the tires on that pickup truck, with the bank on one side seeming straight up (and the other seeming straight down) to scout about. It was always interesting…if not a little scary…to experience dad turning that truck around on those roads when we discovered the road we were on was a dead end or completely washed out. I can also remember more than once that mom would have to get out (or leave finger marks in the dashboard) while dad jockeyed it back and forth through a thousand cranks of the wheel to get it pointed in the other direction.
Heading into the woods in the spring also meant we’d get to bring our .22 along and shoot at a few cans once we got up there (or maybe even a grouse), so I couldn’t complain. And there was the chance we might actually see a bear…what young boy under the age of 12 is going to pass up the chance to see a real bear. In the woods even! So when the time came that we’d stumble upon a morel or two and would fan out and start looking for more, I would help (or so I think I did…I’m not sure how much help I really was at that age). But I never ate them. I was an idiot.
Now, I’m older. I love mushrooms. All kinds. And I enjoy the subtle (and not so subtle) differences of the varieties of mushrooms. Unfortunately, I’ve not taken the time to discover any places to find morels since I left home for college many, many years ago (life has just been too busy since then). So I’m stuck buying them when I really want them…at between $20 and $40 per pound. But, every once in a while, it’s a luxury that is worth it (until I finally get back into looking for them myself). And this is a recipe that is worthy of such a coveted, and nostalgic, mushroom.
Unfortunately, it’s also a recipe that I made during the “camera malfunction” period and only have ONE photo of the leftovers! So please bear with some stock photos…
- 1 whole chicken (about 4 lbs), cut into 8 pieces (breasts, thighs, drumsticks, and wings) with the skin left on
- 3~4 tbsp pastured butter
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 medium shallots, minced (about 1 cup)
- 1 lb fresh mushrooms, selected as availability and budget will allow – I used 3/4 lb morels and 1/4 lb shiitake (keep the small ones whole, and slice the large ones so everything is roughly the same size)
- 1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 tsp fresh lavendar, chopped
- 1/2 tsp fresh tarragon, chopped
- 1 cup Pinot Gris
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup pastured pastured cream
In a large skillet, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the chicken. Place in the skillet and cook about 5 minutes per side (turn once) until the outside is golden brown. Transfer to a plate.
Reduce the heat to medium and melt the remaining butter. Add the shallots and cook for a few minutes until they start to soften and turn opaque. Toss in the mushrooms and continue to cook for another minute or two while they soften just slightly and begin to release aroma. Remove the mushrooms with a “spider” (one of these, not these) and transfer to a bowl.
Add the wine and stock to the pan and bring to a boil. Scrape any bits left from sautéing while the liquid is hot. Place the chicken back in the pan and add the lavender, rosemary, and tarragon. Cover and reduce heat to maintain a simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken when it is done and transfer to a deep serving dish and keep warm.
Place the mushrooms back into the skillet and add the cream. Increase the heat to return to a high simmer. Continue to simmer until reduced to a thick sauce, about 8~10 minutes. Pour the mushroom cream sauce over the chicken and serve. Savor the unique nutty and earthy flavors that the morels offer – something that can’t be achieved with your regular super-market “baby bellas.” And reminisce about late spring in the great outdoors.