The culinary possibilities of working with fresh mushrooms are infinite, and dried mushrooms are no different. Cooking with dried shrooms can take some know-how and experience though; it can be heartbreaking when something doesn’t work out since a lot of time went into picking them. There is nothing worse than making a nice dinner with some dried morels, only to have crunchy dirt in your sauce or stuffing. Almost as bad as grit is chewy, stringy pieces of mushroom in a risotto or soup; dried morels won’t give you that, but dried stems of leccinums/scaber stalks can.
With the shelf life of fresh specimens so fleeting, a dehydrator comes in handy. As I pick and hunt, I’ll start drying mushrooms as soon as possible if I find a big flush. Processing immediately helps to cut down on how often every shelf and crisper in the fridge gets stuffed with brown paper bags, it also ensures a high quality dried product.
My foraging buddy Dan sent me a nice pic of a venison wellington he made with back-straps a couple weeks ago; a great dish. This got me thinking that I should probably start burning through my morels too, since it won’t due to be sitting on grocery bags full of dried when the fresh guys will come up in a matter of weeks.
Onto the recipe here, chaud froid (pronounced shawh fwah) is an old French thing. It literally translates to “hot-cold”. Basically you take something, typically meat or fish, cook it lightly or poach it, then dress is with a creamy sauce bound with gelatin. The gelatin makes the cream set like a layer of soft custard, almost like a thin, savory panna cotta. Once the gelatinized cream has set, you garnish the chaud froid with pretty decorations and then a final layer of finishing aspic that has been clarified with egg whites as per consomme.
Chaud Froid is one of those things that has fallen out of favor, people don’t really do it anymore. I like to take old techniques some of my colleagues might label cheesy or oldschool, and play with them a bit. Instead of looking to molecular gastronomy and chemicals that are chic now for inspiration, I like to look to the past, and re-interpret old things. This morel pate is a good example of that.
The version I’m going to outline for you here is a study in dried morels. The icing on the cake is that the whole shebang is glazed with reduced aspic infused with black truffles. The truffles are completely optional, but they are a traditional chaud froid garnish, and easy to cut into any shape you like.
Dried Morel-Pheasant Paté Chaud Froid, with Black Truffle Aspic
Makes two 4 ounce ramekins of pate, enough to serve 4 people as a small entree or as a small appetizer. If you don’t pass the mousse through the tamis sieve that’s ok, you will have double the amount of mousse, but it will be slightly course feeling in the mouth.
Suggested Equipment: Tamis Sieve, Food Processor, 4 Four Ounce Ramekins
- 3 cups diced pheasant meat, preferably from thighs. This should be about 1.5 lbs. Chicken or turkey can be substituted.
- 3 tbsp cognac
- 4 tbsp shallot, diced
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 cups heavy cream
- Cold water as needed to cover morels for rehydrating and cleaning
- Kosher salt, and ground white pepper, as needed
- 1 recipe morel chaud froid sauce (recipe follows)
- 1 recipe black truffle aspic (recipe follows)
- Toast, for serving
- 4 1/16 inch slices black truffle for garishing (optional)
- Cover the morels with cold water and the cognac, and allow to rehydrate overnight. The next day, agitate the morels in their liquid to remove dirt. If they seem very dirty, cut the morels in half and swish around in the water again to clean. Remove the re-hydrated morels, chop them, and strain their liquid through fine mesh, like a chinois strainer. Reserve the chopped morels. Reduce the morel liquid in a wide saute pan until reduced by 90%, the liquid should be aromatic, dark, and slightly syrupy. Add the cream to the mushroom liquid and reduce by 25% over medium heat, about 10 minutes. You should end up with 1.5 cups of rich morels flavored cream.
- Sweat the diced shallot in a tbsp of unsalted butter until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Cool and reserve.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the pheasant or chicken thigh meat with a pinch of salt and pepper and the shallots. Pulse the mixture until the meat is broken up and starts to thicken. Turn the power on high and slowly drizzle in the morel infused cream, taking breaks to get in the machine and stir it occasionally to help it emulsify. When all the cream has been added, cook a tsp of the mixture and check it’s seasoning, if more salt or pepper is needed, add a tiny bit, then cook, taste, and repeat as needed until you like it. Remember that charctuterie and sausage will become saltier as they sit, so it’s ok to under-season a bit.
- Preheat the oven to 325. Pass the mousse through a tamis sieve (optional) to refine it’s texture. Fold the chopped, dried morels into the chicken mixture and pack into 4 oiled ramekins. Place the ramekins in a deep baking dish and fill it with water until water reaches halfway up each ramekin. Cover the dish with foil and bake the pates for 25 minutes or until hot throughout. Remove the patés from the oven and chill. Unmold each pate and cut in half.
- Put the pates on a cookie drying rack or something similar, placing a bowl underneath to catch dripping chaud froid sauce. Heat the chaud froid sauce and whisk just until it is pourable, then remove it from the heat. Slowly ladle the chaud froid sauce over each paté to coat. Refrigerate the patés until the chaud froid is completely set, about two hours.
- Cut the black truffle into fun shapes and press gently onto the top of each pate. Once again, put the patés on the rack with a bowl underneath to catch sauce. Gently heat the truffle aspic to melt it, just until is is pourable. Spoon tablespoons of the aspic on top of each pate to coat, using the aspic caught in the bowl and gently re-heating/melting if you run low. Once the patés are coated in aspic, chill them and reserve until needed.
Finishing and Serving
When it is time to serve and eat the patés, allow them to sit out at room temperature for at least an hour. Toast four pieces of bread cut into a circle (use the ramekin to cut them and make them the same size as each paté) Serve with a green salad with a light, acidic dressing since these are very rich.
Morel Chaud Froid Sauce
Makes right around 2 cups, plenty for garnishing 4 pates
- 4 grams dried morels
- 1 cup water
- 1.5 sheets leaf gelatin or 2 tsp powdered gelatin
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter and 2 tbsp flour
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Kosher salt to taste
- Rehydrate the morels in the water until soft, at least 10 minutes. Agitate the morels in the water to remove dirt, then remove the mushrooms, strain the liquid, and recombine. Melt the butter in a small saucepot, the add the flour and cook, stirring to create a soft roux. Gradually add the dried morels and their liquid, whisking occasionally.
- When all the mushrooms have been added, soak the gelatin sheet in tepid water until soft. Add the bloomed gelatin to the cream, then add the mixture to the pan, and whisk to incorporate until heated through. Puree the mixture in a blender, then pass through a mesh sieve and reserve until needed, placing plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce in the refrigerator to prevent it from forming a skin. You need to make sure that the sauce jells and holds it’s shape. If for some reason it is still liquid after thoroughly cooling, add more gelatin, puree, and re-chill until it sets.
Black Truffle Aspic
Makes enough glaze for 4 ramekin sized pates only. If you make a pate in a terrine mold, you will only need half this recipe, since you wont need to coat the sides. See an example of a terrine topped with aspic here.
- 2 qts strong, homemade chicken stock, chilled
- 4 large egg whites
- 1/4 tsp fresh truffle scrap leftover from making garnishes
- Combine the chicken stock and the egg whites, pass through a strainer into a pot with high sides, like a 4 qt saucepot. On low-medium heat, stir the stock constantly until the whites rise to the top of the pot, forming a raft. Once the raft has formed, about 20 minutes, turn off the heat. Poke a hole in the top of the raft to reveal the crystal clear stock underneath, then ladle the clarified stock through a chinois or strainer lined with cheesecloth into another pan, which should be very wide; a regular pasta pot will do.
- Add the truffle shavings and or scrap to the stock. Reduce the stock on medium heat until you have 1 cup of liquid, about an hour or so. Remove the truffle scrap. Chill the liquid to make sure it jells nicely, it should be springy, like jello, but not hard. If the aspic doesn’t set, heat it again and whisk in a leaf of gelatin until dissolved, (or 1.2 teaspoons powdered gelatin) then repeat the cooling process.