Episode 2 is here!
And she’s a beauty. Jesse and I loved episode one, but for episode two, we wanted to up the ante on all fronts: more food, more fun ingredients and shots in-situ, more macro footage–everything.
May is a such an exciting month, as we were planned the episode I knew a great problem we would run into would be the paradox of choice–there’s just so much stuff! The greens are everywhere, shoots and buds are out, and the bounty of plants is really coming into season. It’s hard to choose, but I think we have a nice selection of approachable things here: morels, fiddleheads, hop shoots, hostas, smilax, dryad saddle, spruce tips.
And, of course, May means mushrooms make their first appearance. I was worried though, since, contrary to what you might think, I just don’t have tons of morel patches. There’s lots of competition in the Twin Cities too, and my best spot, where my friends and I used to pick multiple hundreds in a day, has been dry and barren for nearly 2 years now. Worst of all is the fact that morels just don’t like cameras. At. All.
Staying on-brand, the morels were the hardest part of the episode to film. All my patches were empty, the woods were dry as a bone, crying for rain, and it took us two solid days just to get about 8–only enough for 2 takes of the morels stuffed with morel sauce that was one of my favorite parts of the episode. Two takes only doesn’t leave a lot of room for errors, and, to make things worse, when I was testing the recipes out a few days before the shoot, something just wasn’t right, but I was out of sacrificial morels for testing. If there was a time I needed mushrooms, it was that week. Joy.
Thankfully the mushroom gods were on our side. The day before we shot most of the footage, I ended up butchering two pandemic pigs out at my dads farm, and my friend Peter, a talented hunter of just about any mushroom you’ve heard of, and many you probably haven’t, ended up scoring a few on his drive out to help butcher and kindly donated some to the cause. Without that donation, we would’ve been in a rough spot. Peter, I owe you a couple mushrooms. Of course, a day after the footage was edited, I picked a good 70 giant morels with my old boss down in Southern Minnesota. The irony was just about as thick as the sauce I stuff the mushrooms with in the video.
We also traveled more for this one. The beautiful Red Cedar Trail near Menomonie makes an appearance for fiddleheads and dryad saddle, as well as a few other cameos, like bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) which is edible but one we left out of the formal nods in the video to avoid conflicts, since there’s a lot of disagreement about them (for the record, they’re edible cooked). The trail is a really beautiful place I love to walk once in a while–a great location for plant spotting for it’s diversity. The morels had us Minnesota bound, and we filmed those at 123 Fake Street, near Bobaloo Jones Park.
Enjoy, and once again, this is best viewed on a big screen. I stream mine using an Apple TV from an Iphone, but there’s a number of ways it could be done, so, if you’re able, try to watch it in all it’s cinematic glory. Really, this episode is so beautiful, so well done, in so many ways, watching it for the first time had me tearing up at the end, right about where we sauce the ice cream with chokecherry syrup when the violin kicks in–try not to do the same.
After the first few views, I see more and more tiny details Jesse’s helped capture that give you a viewing experience that looks how I feel. I’ve made plenty of videos before, but this is the first time I’ve really felt like the cinematography matches the vision in my head. The team at Credo Nonfiction are really masters of their craft.
Thanks for watching, and please share if you enjoy it. If you’re curious about the recipes, they’re below.
Morels Stuffed With Morel Sauce
- Stick blender / hand blender
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Water enough to cover the morels
- Fresh morel mushrooms as needed for stuffing
- 10 grams dried morels or a small handful (good place to use the crumbs from last years jar)
- 2 Tablespoons diced shallots or one small shallot
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 ounces inside of white bread or crustless bread cubed
- 2 Tablespoons high quality grated parmesan
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- A good splash of brandy or sherry
- Sweat the shallots in one tablespoon of the butter, then add the morels, cook for a couple minutes until they smell nice, add the sherry and cook off the alcohol. Add the morel soaking liquid, bring to a simmer and reduce for a few minutes until the pan is nearly dry, then add the cream, bring to a vigorous simmer and cook for a few minutes more to concentrate the sauce.
- Puree the mixture with a stick blender, adding the cheese and bread cubes (transfer it to a small pitcher or container if needed).
- Return the mixture to the pan and cook, stirring constantly to tighten it up. After a couple minutes the sauce should be very thick, and hold peaks like stiff whipped cream.
- Taste the morel “sauce” for salt and adjust as needed. Take a quart plastic bag and place it in a container like a glass, folding the seal over the edge of the container (refer to my picture).
- Fill the bag with the morel sauce, seal to prevent a skin from forming, and cool. You can also put the bechamel in a pastry bag using a small tip, which is the easiest way to stuff the morels.
- Meanwhile, trim some of the stem off your morels that you’ve rinsed or meticulously cleaned, leaving as much stem as possible, and peering inside to make sure there are no inhabitants, then sweat them in a pan with a film of water until completely wilted on medium-high heat.
- Cool the mushrooms, then pipe the filling inside of them. Chill the morels to set the filling, then dust in flour and saute quickly in plenty of fat until browned on both sides. Sprinkle the morels with salt and serve with toothpicks.
Shoot Salad with Dryad Saddle Mushrooms and Wild Mint
- 8 oz mixed wild shoots Such as hops, fiddle and bracken fern, asparagus, hosta, milkweed, wood nettle, day lily, cattail.
- 4 oz bacon sliced
- ¼ cup maple vinegar or apple cider vinegar, plus more to taste if needed
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- Generous handful wild mint leaves a variety that taste like spearmint, to taste
- 4 oz dryad saddle mushrooms thinly sliced edges only
- Cooking oil such as olive, or another oil you like—a good drizzle
- Wild mustard flowers or another flower, to garnish, optional (I used Barbarea vulgaris)
- Keep each type of shoot separate. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then blanch each shoot until just tender. Hop shoots may take seconds, asparagus 30 seconds or so. Fiddleheads 2 minutes. Hostas under a minute depending on size. When In doubt, blanch a little less that you think they’ll need, with the exception of something like bracken fern, which should get a solid 2-3 minutes at a boil for safety.
- If you like, something like tender asparagus could also be thinly sliced and added raw—play with textures and find combinations that work for you.
- After the shoots are blanched, don’t shock them, but drain them quickly, then lay them out to cool on a baking sheet or something similar.
- When the shoots are cool, cut each one into a different, unique shape so you can tell what you’re eating, then combine in a bowl.
- Meanwhile, render the bacon until crisp, with a drizzle of extra oil, then add the dryad saddles, a good pinch of salt and pepper and cook until the dryad saddles have wilted and released their water. When the pan is getting noisy and sizzling, add the vinegar, reduce for a few moments, then toss with the blanched shoots and mix well.
- Toss in the wild mint, reserving some to toss on top as a garnish . Taste the salad, adjust the seasoning for acid, salt, and mint, then serve.
Spruce Tip Ice Cream with Chokecherry Sauce
- 3 cups half and half
- 1/2 cup fresh spruce tips
- 5 large egg yolks
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 teaspoon lime juice optional but recommended--helps to balance the flavors
- Chokecherry Sauce to garnish, optional
- On low, heat the half and half, sugar, salt, and egg yolks in a small sauce pan, whisking occasionally until the mixture is hot and thickens slightly.
- Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, then transfer to a blender.
- When the mixture is cool, chop the spruce tips well, then add to the blender and puree until very smooth. It takes a bit of horsepower to break down the needles, for the best flavor you really need them finely blended.
- When the mixture is pureed, pass it through a fine mesh strainer. If possible, allow the custard to sit in the fridge overnight, which will give a better texture in the finished product. Before spinning, whisk in the lime juice.
- Place the spruce custard in the bowl of an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturers directions. Mine usually takes about 45 minutes. Garnish with a drizzle of the chokecherry sauce.