I’m calling this morel-gasm. Basically, it’s creamed morels served in toasted, hollowed out rounds of brioche–Just think morel mini bread bowl. It’s ridiculously rich, a snap to make, and something you should give a shot if you’re a morel hunter.
The inspiration came from reading one of Richard Olney’s books I’d been perusing for a past consulting gig at a small French restaurant in South Minneapolis. In the book, one of the things I took note of was a dish Olney described using morels cooked in cream, that were served in a sort of bread crust, a square of bread that had been hollowed out, if I remember correctly. I could taste the dish in my mind, and it was pure genius. The toasted bread would soak up the morel liquid as it sat, getting richer, and thicker by the moment. I needed to have it.
Cutting a loaf down into squares could make a great dish to share, but I thought it might be a little much for one person, especially if I was doing it as part of a multi course dinner. I noodled around the idea for a few months, since I really liked the thought of serving some stewed morels in something that would soak up all the delicious sauce.
As I was walking around the grocery store one day the perfect vehicle for the morels appeared: a little pack of small brioche buns. I knew If I was careful with a sharp paring knife I could cut a lid off of each one, hollow it out gently with a fork, toast it lightly, then fill them up and put the lid back on. With the whole dish completely contained like that, instead of being a knife and fork dish, it could be a ridiculously rich hand-to-mouth bite. I had to give it a test drive.
I worried about my little morel bite being too messy, but, it isn’t, toasting the buns makes them ready to soak up liquid, any liquid, and the creamy morel goodness soaks up just enough into the sides of the buns to make them easy to eat out of hand as a nice little bite, and what a bite it is.
Cutting off the lids, hollowing, and toasting the rolls
A few weeks later it went on the menu for a charity event I did during morel season, and man was it good. The best part is, if you’re ambitious, you can make your own buns (parker house rolls would be great) but it’s easy nowadays to find a good grocer that will probably carry rich little brioche buns. In a pinch, even common, soft dinner rolls would work, and, of course, it would be fine to use some of your precious dried morels too. File the idea away for when you have some morels, and want to treat some people.
Brioche Buns Stuffed with Creamed Morels
- 4 small brioche rolls
- 4-6 ounces fresh morel mushrooms
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1/4 cup strong homemade stock
- 3 tablespoons a good splash of dry sherry or cognac
- 1 tablespoon shallot diced 1/4 inch
- Kosher salt to taste
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Fresh water cress dress with lemon and oil to serve, optional
- Preheat the oven to 250F. Using a very sharp, or preferably serrated paring knife, like a tomato knife, cut a square out of the top of each bun, then pry the lid off, trim off the excess, and gently hollow out the middle of each bun by flaking the inside with a fork.
- You want to get as much of the guts of the bread out as possible without poking a hole in the sides. Remember, you're going to fill these with a creamy morel-gasm, which is very thick, but it's still liquid, and you want the buns to hold their payload until the guests chomp into the first bite.
- Hollow out the buns, then put them in the oven on a cookie sheet with a rack and dry them out or 15 minutes. You don't want them very crunchy, they should stay tender on the inside, like a good crouton. From this point the buns can be done a few hours ahead of time or even the night before, and left in a breatheable container on the counter.
- For the morels, clean them, rinsing quickly under cool water if needed and trimming the stems, leaving the morels whole if you can. If your morels are large, cut them into 1 inch pieces. Dehydrate the excess stems and save for another purpose.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in an 8 inch saute pan. Add the morels and shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until morels and shallots are just starting to brown lightly. Season the mixture to taste with salt, deglaze the pan with the sherry, and reduce by half. Add the chicken stock and reduce the mixture by half again, until only about 4 tablespoons remain.
- Add the cream, and reduce again until the soup is nice and thick like a good cream sauce. Double check the seasoning for salt and pepper, then with a slotted spoon, divide the morels evenly between the buns, then finish by drizzling some of the sauce into each one.
- Put the lids back on the buns, dress the watercress with salt, pepper, lemon and oil. Put the morel buns on a platter, with the watercress salad in the middle, along with four small salad plates and some tongs or a fork and serving spoon. Allow the guests to serve themselves. A little cold champagne wouldn't hurt either.