Tarragon and Farm Fresh Cream
February 4, 2007
My mother’s friend Helen lived on the most beautiful piece of farmland tucked in the rolling green hills of New England. She and her husband Bill raised chickens, horses, cats, dogs and cows. We broke fast with the the morning’s eggs, lunched on greens and herbs fresh from the garden and supped on snapping turtle soup. My palette came alive on that farm.
The winter Helen and Bill took in a foster child was the coldest I’d experienced. I didn’t want to drive up for the weekend, but my mother insisted so I had no choice. When we arrived, Helen asked me to help Pam with the milking. I walked into the barn from the frigid air as sunlight from the hay loft beamed on Pam’s golden curls. She turned toward me, pulling on the cow’s udders and my jaw dropped to the barn floor. When she skimmed the cream from the top of the pail and offered me a ladle full, I swooned. The cream was sweet with aromas of nuts, herbs, straw and linen.
Pam was at least 5 years my elder. I followed her around the entire weekend like a puppy dog. We stole away to the barn whenever they weren’t looking. Each time we enjoyed a bit of cream and a few soft caresses in the hay.
The next time we went back to the farm, the ground had thawed and Pam had run away. Somehow the cream didn’t taste as sweet until the tarragon poked it’s pointy green leaves from the topsoil. The combination of the sweet cream with the anise scented flavor of the tarragon made me forget all about Pam. “Pam who?” I asked while we sat at the dinner table enjoying the risotto with wild mushrooms and tarragon cream. My mind floated back to the patch of woods where we had collected the golden morels earlier that day.
Years later, we heard Pam was working the truckstop just South of Rt. 80 and I-95. I thought about going to see her, but decided to stay home and make risotto.
Risotto with Morels and Tarragon Cream
Morel mushroom trimmings
2 leeks, washed, halved and cut into 3 in. pieces
3 carrots cut into 3 in. pieces
1 bulb of garlic separated, but not peeled
12 cups of water, plus more as needed
2 medium potatoes cut into 1/4s
3 onions cut into 1/8ths
1/2 bunch of parsley, stems and all
1 tsp coarse sea salt
10 green peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry, white wine
Saute the onions in 2 Tbs olive oil until translucent. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add the water, turn up the heat to high and add the remainder of the ingredients except the morel trimmings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Strain the stock, transfer to a smaller pot, add another bay leaf, the morel trimmings and simmer for 20 minutes more.
1/2 pound fresh morels
2 Tbs butter
1/4 cup cognac
Brush the mushrooms clean, trim and cut in half. Melt the butter in a saute pan. Add the morels and saute over a low flame for 3 minutes. Turn up the heat to medium and add the cognac. Cook for 2 minutes, reduce the flame and cook a few minutes more.
4 shallots minced
1 cup of vialone nano rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups of stock
2 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbs chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano
1/2 cup farm fresh heavy cream
salt to taste
Heat the cream gently and add the tarragon. Cook over a low flame for 5 minutes, careful not to let the cream simmer. Remove from the flame and cover.
Saute the shallots in olive oil until translucent. Add the rice, stir to coat and saute for 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook uncovered, stirring often until liquid is reduced by half.
Add 1/2 cup of stock and continue the process for about 20–30 minutes until the risotto is almost al dente. Add the morels, the tarragon cream and cook for a few minutes more adding stock as necessary. The risotto should be firm, but soft.
Stir in the cheese. Serve immediately with a Sicilian Frappato or your favorite white Bordeaux.