Asparagus Spears with Sauteed Morels
Rinse the morel mushrooms several times in cold water, draining each time in a colander. Transfer the morels to a medium bowl, and cover with 4 cups warm water. Let stand 30 minutes.Advertisement
Using a zester, make small strips of lemon zest, yielding 2 tablespoons; set strips aside. Squeeze 1 tablespoon juice from lemons, and set aside; squeeze and reserve remaining juice for another use.
Line a sieve with cheesecloth. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the morels to a medium high-sided saute pan. Pass the liquid covering the morels through the sieve into the saute pan, and discard any sand remaining in the cheesecloth. Place the saute pan over medium-high heat. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by three-fourths, 12 to 15 minutes. Set the saute pan aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet set over medium-low heat. Add the shallot, and saute until shallot is tender and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Raise the heat to high, and add the port. Carefully ignite the alcohol, and allow the flame to burn out. Cook until the port has reduced by half, about 1 minute. Add the reserved morels and the liquid, the chicken stock, and the reserved 1 tablespoon lemon juice; cook until the sauce has reduced by three-fourths, about 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large stockpot, steam or boil the asparagus in salted water until spears are crisp and dark green, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove spears from stockpot, and set aside, covered, in a warm place.
Add the cream to the reduced morel sauce. Season the sauce with salt and pepper; continue cooking until sauce has slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Cut the remaining 3 tablespoons butter into small pieces, and swirl them into the sauce until they have melted. Divide the asparagus among twelve plates, and top with the morels. Drizzle the sauce over mushrooms and asparagus. Garnish each serving with the shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano and some reserved strips of lemon zest.
You can cook the asparagus (step five) one day ahead and store, refrigerated, in an airtight container. To serve, drop spears into boiling water just long enough to reheat.