Morel Cream Sauce with Shrimp (aka. Tasty Alien Pinecone Mushroom Things)

Morrel Season!  YES!

Morel Season! YES!

My maternal unit was born & raised on ranches in rural Oregon (Pendleton-Hermiston area, to be exact).  She was always a very “fruit of the earth”, moderately hippie type of woman.  The goal was to grow, raise, hunt/fish, or forage most of our food when possible.  Morel foraging was one of my favorite ways to source food (as opposed to butchering our “pet” rabbits).  Morel foraging meant a road trip up into the mountains and hiking, two things I love.  Every late spring we would head towards McCall, ID to hike and forage, spending the entire day surrounded by pine trees, cool mountain air, wild huckleberries (an added treat), and solitude.

When hunting morels, it’s wise to look for fallen, decaying trees, preferably in areas where there was some sort of recent-ish forest fires.  Once you find something that resembles a tiny, brown-ish grey pine cone you’ve likely found a morel… or a poisonous mushroom.  Really, it’s best to know exactly what you’re looking for.  Or, better yet, purchase your morels from a knowledgeable local produce grocer.  If you want to forage your own, definitely educate yourself about what to look for (and what not to look for) or take a guided hike with an experienced mushroom hunter.  They can also teach you how to avoid poison oak/ ivy (a lesson I learned the hard way).

I foraged these morels at a fantastic produce stand in Boise’s NorthEnd neighborhood (the best hood in Boise, if you ask me).  Morels can be a bit spendy, which is why it’s great that you don’t need a lot of them in this recipe to get the great taste.  Morels also have a limited season, so you can always use dried morels (can be found at most gourmet, organic, or health food grocers).  Just soak the dried morels in hot water (or veg broth) until they are softened through — don’t toss the soaking water, use it in another recipe or freeze in ice cubes & store in a freezer ziploc for use later!

morrell sauce close up   Morel Cream Sauce & Shrimp

1 lb raw shrimp

1/2 – 2/3 lb morel mushrooms, cleaned well* and sliced into 1/4″ rings

8 oz brown button mushrooms (baby bellas), cleaned & sliced

1 C heavy cooking cream

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 tsp butter (use the real stuff)

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 Tbsp lemon zest

1/2 C dry white wine

1/2 – 1 Tbsp whole grain mustard (to taste really)

1/4 C green onion (greens & whites), sliced into small discs

3 cloves garlic, minced (don’t use the jarred stuff… it is evil)

2 tsp fresh thyme (or just a pinch of the dried stuff)

2 Tbsp italian parsley, minced

16 oz dried wide egg noodles

1 lb bag fresh spinach, rinsed & roughly chopped

1 shallot, diced

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

salt & pepper to taste

PREPARE THE SHRIMP:

Seasoned Shrimp Skewers

Ooooh, skewers and everything. Skewers are not needed for the recipe. I just felt like wasting 10 minutes shoving shrimp on them, thinking it would make my life easier later… it didn’t.

There’s so much flavor in the morel sauce & spinach I went easy with the shrimp.  Just season with salt & pepper & squeeze 1/2 lemon over the batch of shrimp.   Let marinade for however long it takes you to get to get nearly done with the rest of the recipe, shrimp really don’t take long to cook.  I’ll let you know when to throw them on the grill later on.  For now, just leave them be.

You can be fancy-schmancy and skewer them like I did (honestly, it was just to make grilling them on the Foreman grill easier), or just cook ’em up however you choose.

PUT A LARGE POT OF WELL SALTED WATER ON TO BOIL.  We’re making pasta.  It takes boiling water.  Don’t wait to do this until later, k?

PREPARE THE SAUCE:

hello little delightful nuggets.

hello little delightful nuggets.

Ordinarily, I would tell you that you’re a total sadist if you rinse your mushrooms in running water.  Mushrooms are porous and soak up the water, that makes them soggy and, well, watery when you try to cook them.  To learn how best to clean mushrooms check out this.  But, not so with morels.  There are all kinds of little nooks & crannys for debris on a morel, the easiest & least damaging way to clean them is a quick, thorough rinse (DON”T SCRUB) under cold water, then lay the mushrooms on a clean kitchen towel to dry a bit.

Once, rinsed, slice the morels into rings.  Heat 1 Tbsp olive & the butter in a pan at medium heat.  Place morels & button mushrooms in pan & saute for 2 – 3 minutes.   Add 1 Tbsp minced garlic, thyme, & 1/2 of the lemon zest and cook until garlic is golden (about 1 minute).

Happy Happy Fungi.

Happy Happy Fungi.

zest lemon & juice of a lemon chopped fresh thyme 3 minced garlic cloves

Now that all the flavor goodness is cooking, it’s time to add the lemon juice.  Let the juice cook into the veg saute mix for a second and then add the wine.  Let wine cook for about 30 seconds and add the mustard.  You’ll want the wine to come to a slight boil (little foamy bubbles will appear around the edge or center of the pan, not a rolling boil).  Let cook for about a minute.

combine mushrooms onions lemon juice and wine

It looks a little… brown… but it is DELICIOUS.

NOW IS A GOOD TIME TO DROP YOUR EGG NOODLES INTO THAT BOILING WATER YOU STARTED EARLIER:  Aren’t you glad I suggested you start the water earlier?  Now it’s all ready for you.  🙂

OK, BACK TO THE MUSHROOM SAUCE REAL QUICK!:   Lower the heat to between low & medium (a 3 or 4 out of 10).  Slowly add the cream, stirring to blend.  You don’t want the cream to boil, just simmer.  It will cook for 10 – 12 minutes, slowly thickening & reducing.

Creamy goodness.

Creamy goodness.

SPINACH TIME!:

chopped spinach 2 cups

You’re busy (everyone is busy) & so am I; so I just used bagged, fresh spinach that I chopped roughly.  Next, heat another pan to medium heat & add the remaining olive oil to warm.  Add the shallot & remaining minced garlic to the heated olive oil & cook to golden brown, about 2 – 3 minutes.

caramelize shallots

Saute of shallots & garlic… like savory candy. Love!

THROW THE SHRIMP ON THE INDOOR GRILL OR INTO A FRYING PAN NOW!  LIKE RIGHT NOW!:  If you timed this right, you’ll have just enough time for these to cook through (pink all the way through) without overcooking.   I don’t recommend using an indoor grill with shrimp (it’s nearly impossible to not overcooking them, but I was trying to cook them quickly without added oil or fat.

NOW, BACK TO THE SPINACH:

Toss the spinach into the shallots & garlic pan.  Mix well (to ensure all of the shallot/garlic mix isn’t at the bottom of pan).  Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook the spinach down slightly.  It will reduce in size greatly.  Once the spinach has sauteed down, sprinkle the apple cider vinegar over it & stir to coat well.  Taste to season with salt & pepper as you see fit.  Remove from heat & set aside.

CHECK PASTA FOR AL DENTE DONENESS.  If it is ready, DRAIN IT!

REMOVE COOKED SHRIMP FROM HEAT.  TASTE MUSHROOM SAUCE TO SEASON WITH SALT & PEPPER.

PLATING TIME!!!  YAY!

Place egg noodles on plate, top with mushroom cream sauce & top that with grilled shrimp.  Sprinkle with the diced green onion and a bit of the parsley.  Yummy!  Add sauteed spinach on the side.

The little bit of tang from the vinegar and deep, herbaceous flavor of the spinach compliment the rich, umami flavor of the mushroom cream sauce and sweet, bright flavor of the shrimp.

grilled shrimp

Now I want to make & eat this again…

finished dish

Yummy Good Stuff!

Let me know if you’ve tried this recipe.  How did you tweak it to make it your own?  What would you like a recipe for in the future?

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