I am a big fan of the side dish. I have always felt that the simplest of main dishes can be company worthy when accompanied by a sumptuous side dish. This recipe is perfect company fare as it is make ahead, tasty, and rather easy to put together. Plus, anything with morels is sure to wow. Don’t let the passing of morel season prevent you from making this dish (adapted from one found in the April 2014 issue of St. Louis’s own Feast Magazine, and courtesy of Cassy Vires of Home Wine Kitchen), Melissa’s Produce has saved the day with their dried morel mushrooms that, really, are so close to fresh ones (without the dirt) that no one will be the wiser.
I wandered from the original recipe a bit, placing the leek-morel mixture into an oval crème brûlée dish, then topping it with thyme, cheese and breadcrumbs, and baking it at 350°F for about 10 minutes, until hot and bubbly. In addition to being an elegant side, it would make a great vegetarian main dish.
Leek and Morel Gratin
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons leeks, sliced
1 .5-oz. pkg. Melissa’s dried morels
Salt and Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dry sherry
¼ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
3 tablespoons Gruyere cheese, grated
¼ cup plain breadcrumbs
Place dried morels in a medium bowl and cover with lukewarm water. Set aside to hydrate for 30 minutes. Drain mushrooms (saving liquid for other uses), and rinse mushrooms, then spread out onto a paper towel-covered plate to dry.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add leeks, and cook until soft and fragrant. Add morels and season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft. Increase heat to high and add sherry. Cook for 1 minute to allow alcohol to burn off. Add cream and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 5 minutes. Pour into individual ramekins or crème brûlée dish. Top with thyme, Gruyere, and breadcrumbs. Bake for 10-15 minutes until hot and bubbly. Serve immediately.
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