It happened again…. Michael and I were able to cook another amazing meal together utilizing mushrooms and asparagus we foraged and picked. Tuesday afternoon we joined John (our food gathering friend), and drove over Red Mountain Pass, hiked up a local trail- head and began the search for the incredible morel mushrooms. Morels love the woodsy area, amongst pine needles, moss, tall grass, or we even found along side the mountain. We each had a bag and wandered off the trail focusing on the ground, hoping to spot a patch of dark brown-topped mushrooms that truly resemble a pinecone. Once I found one, I was addicted to the search it was like the ultimate adult Easter egg hunt. Michael was like a kid in a candy store, his eyes big wandering through the trees, keeping his eye on the prize. The hunt lasted a couple hours with enough time to collect a couple dozen, some of the largest morels I have seen. Definitely not like the ones we would receive in the restaurant.
What would be better than sautéed morels with fresh local asparagus, probably fluffy potato gnocchi. The sun began to go down, but still enough light to spot out the green stalks growing along side of the road. Twenty minutes outside of Ridgeway is plenty of farm- land and if you look closely you will spot the vibrant green vegetable sprouting along the fence near a brook. With snow on its way to Silverton, a dose of spring would brighten anyone’s palate and mood.
We discovered while we were snapping asparagus spears, that are dog Booker is a big fan of the vegetable like us and was right there ready to steal our bounty. We made away with a couple of pounds, and smile on our faces from a successful day of foraging.
The following day the snow began to fall, and as evening approached, it began to accumulate inch upon inch requiring the shovel to remove the snow covering our walk-way. Inside it was warm from the oven baking bread and a tray of brownies for that evening dessert. Michael began with starting a mushroom stock from carrot, celery, onion, and a basket of button mushrooms. He allowed the stock to simmer till it reduced by half. The stock would then be strained and emulsified with a few morel mushrooms creating a mushroom sauce for the plate. I cleaned the morels with a small pastry brush, clearing any excess dirt that it brought home, than set aside in a bowl.
I cleaned 2 potatoes, peeled, than cubed to boil in a pot of salted water. When they were soft and able to be mashed, Michael pulled the pot off the heat, strained the water out. The tubers would be transformed into gnocchi by simply mashing them, adding one egg, and a cup of flour, then gently kneading for a few minutes to create ball. Michael cut away some dough to roll into link, then cut 1 inch pieces, and rolled against the gnocchi paddle to imprint the signature lines. They were dropped in boiling water, then shocked in a bowl of ice water, and placed aside.
Beside the fresh asparagus and morel mushrooms, we had an elk loin that was from John’s hunting days last fall to serve. Michael prepped the meat by tightening bakers twine at two spots on the loin to help the meat cook evenly. With simple seasoning of salt and pepper it went into a very hot cast iron pan to get a nice sear. He then allowed it to finish cooking in the oven at 350 degrees while he finished up with the complimentary pieces. The gnocchi was pan sautéed to crisp the outside in butter and garlic. The asparagus after a quick shock in boiling water was sautéed with garlic and onions for added flavor. The morel mushrooms had also been cooking in a skillet with a tab of butter just to cook out the natural water and release the intense woodsy flavor. Dinner was coming together.
A pillow of gnocchi’s and morels, vibrant asparagus lying along the side, elk loin medallions resting on top, and an earthy creamy mushroom sauce spooned around the plate. It was spring at its finest even if it didn’t look like it outside. With dinner we would be sipping a 2005 syrah from Colorado, and a Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina. It was another amazing meal created with all that is in season, local, and foraged. We gave thanks and said goodbye to winter, welcoming spring to our home.