Sometimes, when the weather is dark and cold, and so is life in general, one just needs to get the hell out of town. Both circumstances were true back in April, when my lovely friend Kathy Yerich suggested a road-trip down to southern Indiana for the Brown County Morel Mushroom Festival. I’ve written about Kathy before and the glorious treats that she and her husband Fred forage and pass along to friends. She’d heard through her mycological grapevine about Brown County’s morel haven status and given our mutual love of devouring morels, and my desperate need to steal time away with a good friend, off we went.We drove away from sheets of sleet, and through sheets of rain, to cross the winter-spring transition line, somewhere around central Illinois. As green slowly sneaked into the landscape, we grew positively giddy with the anticipation of tromping through leafy woods, gathering enough morels to smother scrambled eggs (Kathy brought farm-fresh eggs) and to haul back home to share with friends like you.Devil’s UrnKathy snapping Devil’s UrnTurkey TailGnome Home (Right?)
Except. It was just as damn cold in southern Indiana as it was in Minnesota! Spring was two weeks or more late in Brown County too and despite our cute wellies and contagiously good spirits, morels did not come out to play.Not that we cared. Oh my gosh we had so much fun hiking, chatting with morel enthusiasts, wandering sort of accidentally into the Story Inn for restorative bubbles and a blessedly hot meal, and adventuring our way home with unplanned stops at Upland Brewing Company in Bloomington, IN, for lunch, and the Mark Twain Hotel in Peoria for dinner and a good night’s sleep.After arriving home morel-less yet refreshed, I decided to postpone this post until morels made their appearance in Minnesota. Which they most certainly have! I’ve been feasting for a week on a combination of a Minneapolis Farmers Market haul, not one but two glorious morel tasting dinners at Corner Table, and a generous gift from Kathy and Fred. I made the Morel Burger with Ramps below, and finally got to prepare this Morel Flan, which I’d been dreaming about since Indiana.So here it is! This baby is uber-rich, eggy and creamy and a gorgeously decadent way to showcase our favorite spring treat. Bonus: when morel season is over, which is probably in a few minutes, move on to other mushrooms. This flan works all year long. I do hope you get a chance to enjoy it with morels, though, in honor of road trips and dear friends.
4 Tbsp. soft butter, divided
1 oz. package dried morels
4 ramps, chopped (substitute one large shallot if you can’t find ramps)
1 c. cream
1 c. whole milk
1 large egg
3 egg yolks
1/2 tsp. sea salt
generous grating of fresh nutmeg
1/4 lb. (or more) fresh morels, cleaned
1 Tbsp. sherry
freshly ground black pepper
Butter 6 4-oz. ramekins with 1 Tbsp. of the soft butter. Set aside. Set out a large glass baking pan, large enough to hold ramekins without touching.
Put dried morels in a plastic bag and crush into small pieces with a rolling pin. Pour cream and milk into a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until hot but not simmering. Remove from heat and stir in crushed morels and chopped ramps. Let morels and ramps steep for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Strain cream into a clean, medium bowl, pressing down on solids to extract all the liquid. Discard crushed morels and ramps.
Whisk egg, yolks, salt, and nutmeg into the morel cream. Taste and adjust seasoning (add perhaps a bit more salt if you like). Pour mixture into buttered ramekins. Set ramekins in large glass baking pan and fill pan with hot tap water until water reaches half-way up ramekins. Place pan in oven and bake for 40 minutes or until flans are just set.
Remove pan from oven and using tongs, remove ramekins from water. Let flans cool for a few minutes while you saute the morels.
Heat remaining 3 Tbsp. of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When butter is bubbling and hot, add sherry and stir for a minute until sherry has boiled away. Add morels to the pan. Add a pinch of salt to the morels and saute until just starting to brown, turning a few times, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
To serve, run a knife around the edges of each ramekin. Invert the flans onto serving plates. Holding the ramekin firmly down on the plate, give the ramekin and plate together a good side-to-side shake until flan releases. Divide warm, fresh morels over and next to flans. Top with a grind of freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.