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Fettuccine with Morel Mushrooms
and Country Ham
The Inn at Little Washington
Cookbook: A Consuming Passion
by Patrick O’Connell, 1996, Random House
spring, if we get exactly the right amount of light rain followed by just
enough sunshine, we’re blessed with a bountiful harvest of wild morels,
the local mountain people refer to as ‘merkels’. Some say the name is
derivation (the Teutonic word for morel was merchel). Others
insist that merkel
is Southern for miracle.
At any rate, the arrival of the first merkel of the season is greeted with
as much excitement as any miracle would be. A buzz goes from hollow to
who found it, where it was found, and how big it was.
Predictions are made
about how good the season will be, and tall tales are
exchanged about pre-
vious harvests. The almost other-worldly aspect of merkel
hunting is that not
everybody is capable of seeing the mushroom’s
distinctive cap poking up in
the forest. You have to have a trained eye.
No other mushroom has a richer, earthier, or meatier taste than the morel.
In this dish, the flavor permeates the cream. You may substitute dried
(after soaking them in warm water for a few minutes) or try other
mushrooms, such as chanterelles.”
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces fresh fettuccine or 4 ounces dried
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup fresh morel mushrooms or
1/4 cup dried reconstituted in
1/2 teaspoon minced shallot
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 very thin slices well-trimmed country ham,
cut into ribbons
the same width as the fettuccine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1. Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil and add the
salt. Cook the fettuccine until just barely al dente. Drain in a colander
with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Keep warm.
2. In a 10-inch sauté pan, melt the butter and the remaining
oil over high heat. Add the morels just as the butter begins
Sauté rapidly until the mushrooms begin to crisp around
Add the shallot and garlic and sauté for 1 minute more.
3. In a 4-quart saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Reduce
add half of the sautéed mushrooms. Reserve the other half
Cook until the cream thickens enough to coat the
back of a spoon.
in the cheese. Add the nutmeg and season
with salt and pepper.
4. Add the fettuccine to the sauce and toss well to combine.
To serve: Using tongs, place a mound of fettuccine in
each of four
warm serving bowls and pour a bit of the remaining sauce over the
noodles. Place the reserved mushrooms on top of the fettuccine and
divide the ham evenly among the bowls. Garnish with the chives.
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