A sure sign of spring is the appearance of morel mushrooms. Try them roasted with fresh herbs and a touch of crème fraîche, then spooned over toasted bread for an elegant, yet easy, starter or first course.
Special equipment: You will need a pastry brush for this recipe.
What to buy: If you can’t find fresh morel mushrooms, substitute fresh porcinis or chanterelles.
1 pound fresh morel mushrooms
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing on the bread
3 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme or savory leaves or a combination
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots (from about 2 medium shallots)
1 tablespoon Cognac
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1/2 medium lemon)
1/4 cup crème fraîche
4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices country bread, such as pain au levain
Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
Discard any moldy mushrooms, trim the bottoms of the stems, and cut away any discolored spots. Soak the mushrooms in several changes of cold water to remove any grit. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into 1/4-inch pieces and place in a large bowl.
Add the measured oil, garlic, and herbs and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to 13-by-9-inch baking dish and spread in an even layer.
Roast the mushrooms until tender, stirring halfway through the cooking time, about 20 minutes total. (Toward the end of the cooking time, the morels will release some of their juices.)
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small, nonreactive frying pan over medium heat until foaming. Add the shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the Cognac. Return the pan to medium heat and simmer until the alcohol smell has cooked off, about 30 seconds.
Remove the pan from the heat again, add the vinegar and lemon juice, and stir to combine. Stir in the crème fraîche, taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed; set the pan aside.
When the mushrooms are ready, remove the baking dish from the oven, add the shallot–crème fraîche mixture, and stir to combine. Return to the oven and bake until the flavors have melded, about 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Set the oven to broil. Arrange the bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the toasts to a serving dish and spoon all of the mushrooms and sauce over them. Serve immediately.