Definitely a Morel Decision…my passion for that springtime shroom all year round

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Why this passion? Always adventuresome, always not quite mainstream (in lots of ways) – my food tastes and experiences were fueled throughout my childhood – not guided by parental modeling or instruction, but by parental exposure. My Midwestern, potato chip company owner father who ate nothing but ground sirloin and a plain steak, and my New York, Mahattanite mother who had far more an adventuresome palate, but no particular interest in preparation of anything, including daily meals, knew early on my experience needed to be different. And that, most definitely was provided. They took me for meals everywhere, especially fine dining in New York and any other city we traveled to – they watched as I consumed Peanut Stuffed Lobster at the old Clam Shop in Detroit, as my father gasped in disbelief. But, the point is, they did it. They provided the canvas…and how grateful I am to those parents that put me first in so many ways.

As a child I always wanted the “weirdest” thing on the menu – wild boar, absolutely. Wild mushrooms, all the better. Was it always the most expensive? Not necessarily, but sometimes. Key for me, the experience. And, that hasn’t changed much today. I still seek out the unusual, and always with the best result – my husband insists I always pick the best thing on the menu, seek out the most esoteric ingredients and call it my own (as in adoption), or find the most interesting restaurant by happenstance.

In the 1990’s I met Joe Breidenstein from Walloon Lake, Michigan – a bright, tender, and generous man that was passionate about Morels. He developed morel weekend outings, while promoting Michigan, local woodsy finds, and a bevy of mushroom specialists as friends and compadres, I would go up during spring and fall and do mushroom cooking for his guests. Even when I moved to Illinois for five years, Joe continued to use my recipes for his weekends. Joe became a close and treasured friend – a special friendship that lasted until his death in 2009. I loved Joe, I loved his passion, and I loved morels.

In 2012, my book, The Art of Cooking Morels, was published by The University of Michigan Press. My incredibly talented artist husband, David McCall Johnston, painted 25 original works for my book. If you would like to purchase The Art of Cooking Morels, it is readily available on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=the+art+of+cooking+morels), and if not, this is one of the recipes from that book…the one Joe always loved.

I have changed my original Morel Souffle recipe I would make at Joe’s weekends to accommodate those of us watching fat intake!!

Dried Morels ready to be reconstituted

Dried Morels ready to be reconstituted

Saute the Morels

Sauteeing the Morels

Cutting Morels into rounds

Cutting Morels into rounds

Morel mixture in ovenproof dish and ready for the oven

Morel mixture in ovenproof dish and ready for the oven

Finished Souffle

Finished Souffle

Morel Mushroom Soufflé ala Healthy©
You can always substitute regular butter and half and half as well as full-fat cheddar and cream cheese, if fat isn’t issue. Tastes great either way!!
See bottom of recipe if you do not know how to reconstitute dried morels.
Cooking times may vary depending on the container you use. Check times at 45 minutes on…

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:
2 ounces dried morels, brushed, reconstituted, drained (liquid reserved), (or use fresh
equivalent)
2 Tablespoons butter substitute or margarine, divided
6 large eggs
1/2 cup fat free half-and-half
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon Dijon-type or any deep flavored mustard
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
4 ounces low-fat (reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded
11 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened

Special Equipment: Soufflé dish (6-8 cups) or any ovenproof baking dish with some height. Blender or food processor.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Set oven rack to middle position.
Grease an ovenproof soufflé dish (using 3/4 Tablespoon of butter substitute) and set aside.
In a large nonstick sauté pan, heat the remaining butter substitute until melted; add morels. Sauté mushrooms (about 5-6 minutes). Let cool; when morels are cool to the touch, cut into spirals and set aside.

In a blender or food processor fitted with the steel “s” blade – process eggs, fat-free half-and-half, Parmigiano-Reggiano, mustard, salt and pepper, until well blended and smooth.
Add the cheddar cheese and reprocess, just to mix. Add the cream cheese in small amounts until well blended. Remove cheese mixture to a bowl and stir in the morel mushrooms, mixing thoroughly.

Place the soufflé ingredients into the greased ovenproof soufflé dish and bake at 375° F. for about 70 minutes or until top is golden brown and springs back when gently tapped with your finger (you don’t want the center to be loose). Remove the soufflé from the oven and serve immediately.

Note: Check soufflé at 45-60 minutes for doneness, will vary depending on baking dish. If soufflé seems to brown too quickly, turn heat down slightly.

NOTE:
Reconstituting Dry Mushrooms:
I always begin the reconstituting process by lightly brushing my dried morels over a clean piece of paper – I use a soft baby hairbrush, natural bristle paintbrush, or a fluffy natural bristle cosmetic brush (one generally used for blush-on rouge). Regardless of the specific brush I am using, I initially use a brand new clean brush and set it aside in a marked plastic bag “MORELS” – I never want that brush being used for its intended purpose – it is kept solely for morels.

Why the clean paper below it? To catch any spores that may be released in the process. When done brushing the morels, I then take the spore spotted paper and shake it out in my wooded lot with the hope that new morels will appear the following year (wishful thinking!)

While I’m busy brushing those masters of camouflage, I boil about 4-6 cups of water and let it cool slightly. Placing the brushed dried morels in an extra large measuring cup or bowl and pour the previously boiled water over them. I usually set a ladle or kitchen tool on the top of the water to keep the morels submerged for 20-30 minutes to reconstitute. Once plumped, I remove the morels from the water with a slotted spoon and retain the mushroom-infused liquid. The morel liquid is great for assisting in the sautéing of morels, used as part of a soup base, grain preparation, gravy base, or for additional recipes. I never just throw out the morel liquid…if ever there just too much to deal with – I freeze it in ice cube trays or use it in soups or stews as part of the liquid base.

Morel Souffle and Sides

Morel Souffle and Sides

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