This recipe was originally published in my Sunday Mercury recipe column. At that time, I had just suffered an accident of someone dropping a 2-litre kettle of boiling water onto my foot. This happened whilst on holiday in the south of France, so I tried to make up for my extended stay by enjoying the food.
Whenever I’m at a supermarket in France I look for ingredients that are not readily available in the UK. Dried Morel mushrooms are one such ingredient. The taste of Morels is unlike any other mushroom, it’s distinct, earthy with a wonderfully perfumed flavour that goes particularly well with tarragon and chicken. Best in cream sauces or garlic butter. Larger Morels can be used to stuffed with chicken mousse, shrimp or crayfish tails.
Fresh or dried Morels need inspecting thoroughly because they can often contain grit and insects. Dry ones are easier to clean by soaking to remove these things. Fresh ones, on the other hand, are very perishable and only keep for a day or two once they have been washed. The Morel season in the UK is short April-May indeed, it is short in other countries too which is one of the reasons why morels (fresh or dried) can be hard to find.
INGREDIENTS (serves 2)
2 x 175g skin-on chicken breasts
300 ml chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
1 large flat sliced mushroom
100 ml double cream
10 dried morel mushrooms
2 baking potatoes
1 Tbsp diced country ham
125g (5oz) baby spinach
50g (2oz)unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
- Preheat the oven 190c (gas mark 5) and *soak the morels in cold water for 30 minutes. Keeping the water from the morels, slice each morel in half and re-rinse them to remove any grit then dry them on paper towel.
Drain the morel water through a very fine strainer to remove any grit (if you don’t have a strainer that fine then line your strainer with one sheet of paper towel).
- Combine the chicken stock, the flat mushroom and the strained morel water, herbs de Provence and gently simmer until the flat mushroom are tender then turn off the heat.
- Use a sharp knife and trim the top and bottom of the baking potatoes, cutting each potato into a 4 cm (1 1/2 inch) thick slice. Use a small paring knife, cut the remaining peel off the potatoes, trimming each baking potato into a disk-shaped (like a hockey puck).
- Melt the butter in a heavy non-stick saute pan, then brown off the potato discs on a medium heat, turning them over occasionally. Once brown, add 50 ml of stock to the pan, cover with a lid or aluminium foil and cook in the oven until tender, then keep warm.
- Strain the stock to remove the herbs and sliced mushrooms, then add the cream and the Morel pieces, and keep on a very low heat.
- Brown the chicken on both sides in half the oil, season with salt and pepper then finish cooking them in the oven (approximately 12 minutes). Add the diced country ham to the pan during the last 2-3 minutes of cooking.
- Whilst the chicken is cooking, wash the spinach, then drain well. Flash-fry the spinach in the remaining oil for 2-3 minutes then season and drain well, pressing out the moisture and keep warm/
Divide the spinach onto the two warm dinner plates, top with a fondant potato, then the chicken (which you can cut in half lengthwise (as I have done in the photo) and then spoon the sauce and ham around the plate.
IF you’re having difficulty finding morels, try the internet. They’re not cheap but for a special treat well worth it. You can use any kind of air-dried ham (Parma, Prosciutto etc) in place of country ham. You can buy Herbs de Provence mixtures in the UK and US but if you get the chance to buy some at a French market even better!
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