Monday, May 10, 2010

potatoes gratin with ramps and morels

The wild forests of Chicago are lousy with morels and ramps for a few days around now. As any woodsman knows, these life forms are about as seasonal as you can get and will probably be gone from the region by the next produce box. Here is a simple vehicle to move them (or pretty much anything small and fragrant) quickly and efficiently from forest floor to belly.

Invoke a 375 degree oven. Peel and thin slice 4-6 potatoes (these were russets). Toss the potatoes with a little oil, s&p, and any extra ingredients like shallots, garlic, herbs, mushrooms. This here had 4-5 whole ramps cleaned and chopped (green parts and all), and not quite an ounce of chopped fresh morels, which had dried out in my cabinet, reconstituted for a few hours in salted water. I was afraid this wouldn't be near enough morels to taste anything, but when the woodland nymphs wear these caps to sleep in the oak hollows they endow them with great fragrance and meaty fungal flavor, so it was plenty.

Make a textbook bechamel/veloute, like the recipe in Julia's Mastering the Art Vol. 1, which is 2T butter, 3T flour, and 2c heated-just-to-boiling milk, plus seasoning. No need to precook the potatoes, as the bechamel holds a lot of heat and will start the potatoes cooking right away. I was thinking you could also stir in a nice stinky blue cheese to the sauce at this point if you wanted to go that direction, but that would overwhelm the flavors at hand today.

Put potatoes in a greased gratin dish, pour the heated bechamel over to just cover, and grate a dry cheese over the top. I used some kind of parmesan from the back of the drawer. Bake 45 mins. and then start checking doneness, as it should be about ready at that point.