To the morels,
Perhaps to many it would seem strange that my brother and I drove 7 hours for you, but to me, it’s worth it. You drive me crazy in the most wonderful and infuriating ways. When the days grow longer and the spring sun appears you star in my dreams. You and me, in the woods, you playing hard to get at first I grow weary of your elusiveness until I spot you in full glory. Tipping your hat out of the pine needles, nestled into the ashy soil with your face illuminated by the sun. In my dreams you’re always bigger than real life and yet the thrill of coming into your presence in my dreams or reality is always the same; exhilarating.
You’ve taught me how quickly the earth can heal after devastation and suffering and that in my own challenges and pain I too, can unexpectedly bloom. Surrounded by signs of death and decay; charred limbs and thriving tree trunks that are now statues in ash and charcoal, you thrive and begin the great work of bringing new life, and hope to a darkened scene.
Every year I try to get to know you more, to understand where you like to live in the hope of finding you more easily. But I sort of love that you play hard to get it . This makes your presence on the plate one that isn’t easily taken for granted. Because you make me work so hard, my gratitude for when you’re here radiates through my whole body. I can spend hours, the whole 3 1/2 hour drive home, dreaming of how to make the most out of you in order to do you and our search to find one another the fanfare it deserves.
This pasta suits you. A few simple ingredients brought together with care and cheese allow your dense and meaty flavor to shine. It’s the sort of food that endears me to this craft; a few unfrilly, yet carefully crafted or tended to, ingredients make a meal that upon first bite I’m compelled to close my eyes in order to block out the rest of the world and to be fully present to this generous gift.
Like the rest of the natural world, I’m grateful you’re here and that I’ve gotten the pleasure of getting to know you. I look forward to many more years finding one another and spending time together in the kitchen.
With so much love and gratitude,
Morel Alfredo with Peas
Serves 6 - 8
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, sliced
10 ounces sliced morel mushrooms
1 pound pasta, spaghetti or fettuccine
2 cups / 3 ounces finely grated Parmesan
1 1/2 cups /3 ounces finely grated Gruyère
2 cups fresh or frozen peas (if using fresh peas blanch them first)
Freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until just starting to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente, about 1 minute before the package instructions says the noodles are ready.
To the garlic and butter add the morel mushrooms along with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Let the mushrooms cook, without stirring for a few minutes. Cook the mushrooms until any water has been cooked off and they begin to caramelize. Turn the heat to low if the pasta isn’t ready at this point.
Drain the pasta, reserving 2 cups of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the sautéed mushrooms along with 1/2 cup pasta water. Stir in a handful of the cheeses. Add more pasta water as needed and continue to stir in a bit of cheese as the previous handful melts and creates a cohesive sauce. You most likely will not need to use the entirety of the pasta water. Once all the cheese has been added, stir in the peas and cook until warmed through.
Add the pasta to a platter, finish with a few twists of freshly ground black pepper and serve straight away.
*I apologize that there is no photo of the pasta to accompany this post. I literally was too in the moment and enjoying it so much that I forgot to pause and grab a photo. Hopefully the beauty shots of our time in the woods makes up for my mistake.
Love this tribute to the morel, Ash. I know the quest well.
Absolutely beautiful, Ashley.