October Dinner

Re-hydrating the Morels

Re-hydrating the Morels

Cathy and I went up to visit Mr.Dr. and Mom for the weekend. It was the perfect excuse for Mr. Dr. and I to make another dinner with wine.

After some discussion, we decided that we would make something that has been on our “to do” list for several years; Salt Baked Fish. This is something that Mr.Dr. and I have talked about since before I married his daughter (7 years ago). We finally gathered up the gumption to make it happen. The other items on the menu were the Mushrooms in Puff Pastry, and an Arugula salad.

Salt and Pepper Salad

Salt and Pepper Salad

Breaking the Salt Crust

Breaking the Salt Crust

We discussed how we were going to serve the fish. Salt Baked was a given, but that is just a cooking technique. I suggested a presentation I had seen done at the Charleston in Baltimore. It consisted of saffron rice in the middle of a shallow bowl with the fish on top. The rice was surrounded by Thai yellow curry, and speckled with morel mushrooms.

Technique and presentation settled,  we went to the store and picked out 2 black sea bass. In retrospect, that was at least one too many. We had them cleaned and scaled there (poorly as it turned out). We finished the rest of our shopping and headed home.

The first thing to make was the curry as that takes the longest to simmer and develop. I started it about 2 hours before we ate, that proved to be too long. The curry was a bit too thick for my tastes, but the flavor was very good. (I did the curry again at home a few days later and about 45 minutes of reducing was plenty.)

Soon, it was time for the fish. We tried to remove the rest of the scales from the poorly cleaned fish, and did a fair job of it. The salt and egg whites were mixed and we packed the fish in the salt. It was like burying a child in wet sand. We popped the fish in the oven and moved on to prepare the rest of the meal.

The morels were dried and needed to be reconstituted in warm water. We decided to make the rice with the water used to rehydrate the morels. This resulted in very strongly flavored rice that may have overpowered the fish a bit. If I were to do it again, I would use only half of that water, and half clean water.  Finally, the morels were sautéed in butter until crispy and set aside.

Plating the Main Course

Plating the Main Course

While the rice was cooking, I made the Mushrooms in puff pastry and prepared the salad. The salad was arugula with grape tomatoes, radish, shaved pecorino cheese, and toasted pecans. It was then dressed with a vinaigrette made from olive oil, salt, pepper and a unique vinegar made from tropical citrus we got in San Francisco.

Breaking the fish out of the salt crust was more work than I expected. It really baked into an almost cement like crust. Once liberated, the skin was discarded, pin bones removed, and it was placed on the rice.

Salt Baked Fish on Rice with Yellow Thai Curry and Morel Mushrooms

Salt Baked Fish on Rice with Yellow Thai Curry and Morel Mushrooms

For the wine, we chose to open the bottle of Black Ankle Syrah I had brought with me from the visit I wrote about. We had no idea if it would go well or not, and were pleasantly surprised to find it went quite well with both the salad and the mushrooms. It was a fairly neutral pairing with the fish.






The Menu:

Salt Baked Fish

1 fish such as branzino or other sea bass cleaned and scaled, head on

3 egg whites

4 pounds kosher salt


Mix the egg whites with the kosher salt to make the baking medium.


Place a thin layer of the salt in the shape of the fish on a baking sheet. It helps to place a layer of parchment paper on the tray and trace the fish onto it so you don’t waste any salt mix on the bottom layer.


Place the fish on the bottom layer of salt and pack the rest of the salt mix around he fish until it is covered evenly.


Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until a thermometer inserted near the head reads 135 degrees.


The Rice

1 cup jasmine rice

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup morel mushroom liquid

1 tbsp butter

pinch salt


Put everything except the rice into a small pot and bring to a boil covered. Add the rice and reduce to a simmer. Simmer without lifting lid for 18 minutes.


The Curry

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 onion

6 cloves garlic

2 tbsp curry powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger

1/2 tsp diced lemon grass

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

24 oz coconut milk

4ish tbsp fish sauce


Heat the oil in a pot. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté an additional minute.


Add the curry powder and sauté until it turns brown, about 15-20 seconds. Add the coconut milk. Bring to a slight boil then reduce to a simmer.

Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 20-30 minutes checking regularly for consistency and flavor.


Add additional fish sauce or curry powder to taste.


The Morels

1 package dried morels



Re-hydrate the morels in 2 cups of warm water. Reserve 1/2 cup of the water for the rice. Sauté the morels in butter until browned.



Creamy Wild Mushrooms in Puff Pastry


Frozen Puff Pastry Cups

1 1/2 pounds wild mushrooms such as oyster, shitake, or hen-of-the-woods large diced

6 tbsp butter in 2 tbsp sections

2 shallots diced

3 cloves garlic diced

1 1/2 tbsp flour

1/3 cup gouda cheese grated

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 tsp fresh chopped tarragon

salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven and prepare the puff pastry cups according to instructions.



Heat 2 tbsp butter in a large sauté pan. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté until softened.


Add the mushrooms and sauté until they begin to brown. Add 2 tbsp butter and begin to sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms stirring constantly.


When the flour begins to brown slightly, add the cream in 1/4 cup increments, stirring well until desired consistency.


Add the cheese and tarragon and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.


Spoon into puff pastry cups.


Serve with an Amontillado Sherry. Bask in the praise and admiration of your guests.




Salt and Pepper Salad

so named for the salty pecorino cheese and peppery arugula. Made by tossing arugula, sliced cherry tomatoes, sliced radish, shaved pecorino cheese, and toasted pecans with a vinaigrette.  I recommend using a citrus-based vinegar for the vinaigrette as it adds quite a bit to the flavor of this salad.

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