New Restaurant Added – Morel, Milwaukee, WI

Morel is a gem of a space. On a recent dark and stormy night, we ducked inside. The lights were low, the conversation was vibrant. The small restaurant space was full, but we were able to grab the last two spots at the bar, which looks into the cooking space. Here is how they describe what they are trying to do:

“Morel Restaurant is a modern American farm-to-table restaurant that finds inspiration from Chef Jonathan Manyo’s roots: Wisconsin. Morel explores natural flavors, colors and textures from local farms, purveyors, foragers and artisans.

The wild morel mushroom marks the start of a new growing season and is the delicious reward of those who forage in the woods of Wisconsin. Like the hunt for morels, Jonathan enjoys the adventure of finding and preparing locally grown, raised and produced food for Morel’s diners.”

The menu the night we stopped in was inspired by local foods, many of the dishes were modern American. We ordered the pheasant terrine, the duck confit, and a beautiful dish of sauteed mushrooms over polenta. Each dish was thoughtfully composed and full flavored. The mushroom dish inspired an attempt at reproducing it the next weekend at home, as a vehicle for serving pulled pork.

Morel3

We started with whole kernel corn, half of which we shallow fried in corn oil until beginning to turn caramel brown. We then blended fried and non-fried corn together, with just enough chicken broth to allow it to blend. Back into the pan and added grated Sarvecchio Parmesan. The mushrooms are cremini and shitake, sauteed in butter with onions, savory, and oregano. The pork had been roasted for over four hours, studded with pieces of garlic, and covered with fresh oregano and sea salt. It was excellent, but Morel was better.

A few dishes of note from a recent menu:

Duck Confit, Sage, Ricotta, Pumpkin, Apple, Maitake Mushroom, Duck Jus

Pork Shoulder, Bratwurst, Horto Beans, Bacon, Kimchi, Herbs

Beef Short Rib, Celery Root, Brussels Sprouts, Garlic, Watercress, Bacon, Beef Jus

A worthy addition to our collection of Restaurants which exemplify Great Lakes Cuisine.

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Split Whole Roast Chicken & Stuffing

Necessity is the mother of invention. It also leads to re-visiting the past. We were looking for the best way to use some excess wild rice stuffing which we had prepared for use in stuffing a kabocha squash (bit more on the kabocha here). We used wild rice from Northern Wisconsin, pre-cooked in chicken broth and tossed with sauteed onions and crumbled chicken sausage. Don’t want to waste that.

 

 

Chicken Wild Rice2

We were serving this with roast chicken, so we could stuff the bird, but stuffing the whole chicken has a few downsides. It adds mass to the bird which requires greater cooking time, which in turn leads to either an over-cooked bird on the outside to ensure complete cooking in the inside or the risk of under cooking the inside of the bird to keep the outside moist.

Memories of a recipe from Rick Bayless provided the inspiration. Chef Bayless presents his version of a Roadside Grilled Chicken, which involves removing the backbone of the chicken and flattening the bird for more even cooking. When we prepared this for the grill, we loved the flavor but also the versatility in cooking the bird.

So instead of stuffing the chicken, we split it and flattened it over a bed of the wild rice stuffing in an earthenware pan. We slid butter mixed with sea salt and oregano under the skin and slipped it into a 450 degree oven. After 10 minutes, we turned the heat down to 350 degrees to complete the cooking time. The skin was crisp, the fats and flavors ran down into the stuffing, and the chicken was kept moist by the steam rising from the stuffing. This was an ideal solution. It was also a delicious, family-style version of Great Lakes Cuisine.

Chicken Wild Rice

The process is known as spatchcock and works just as well for a turkey or any number of birds. For us, this is the easiest and tastiest way to prepare an ample amount of stuffing and still quickly prepare a perfect bird. Experiment and enjoy.

Winter Cheese Tasting

Something about the cold winter air has me feeling a bit Alpine here in the Great Lakes region. Sure, we don’t have the picturesque mountain vistas, but we do have the alpine-style cheeses. Another road trip to Fromagination in Madison, WI yielded a multitude of wonderful choices paired with a few selectsausage offerings from the folks at Underground Meats.

Cheese Plate - Sheep Winter 2016

We’ve discussed the joy of Fromagination before in this post, and detailed the temple of butchery that is Underground Meats in this post. After much careful deliberation (and tasting!) we selected the following cheeses for our Alpine-style plate:

Cheese Plate - Sheep Winter 2016-1

Our selections, from top to bottom:

Underground Meats Wisco Old Fashioned – a clever twist on the ever-popular Wisconsin Old Fashioned, which is unique for the use of brandy rather than whiskey. Heritage pork is combined with allspice, orange zest, and brandied cherries. I’ve really come enjoy the flavor of dried berries in a well-made sausage, like dried cranberries in my landjaeger. I may have to venture completely that direction and give the Native American pemmican a try.

Underground Meats Goat Sec – a traditional sausage with the added depth of goat meat, which has the full flavor to complement bold cheeses.

Hidden Springs Creamery Ocooch Mountain – A sheep milk aged cheese in a Gruyere-style, named for the Ocooch “Mountain” which tops out at 350 feet, just 15,428 feet short of the highest Alpine peak. Aged a few months, it retains the creamy texture and showcases the sheep milk flavors.

Roth Kase Private Reserve – A cow’s milk Gruyere-style cheese, aged a few months longer, provided a comparison for the Ocooch, and highlighted the more robust flavors of the sheep milk variety.

Hidden Springs Creamery Timber Coulee – Another sheep milk cheese in a different style, aged a bit longer creating a more granular texture. The sheep milk flavors are very pronounced, with plenty of what we call “barnyard” in the cheese.

Ram Hall Dairy Berkswell – Sheep cheese from the UK which according to Murray’s has significant seasonal variation, and based on their description ours was likely a late season version. Not as pronounced in flavor nor as granular as the Timber Coulee, but an excellent international cheese for the plate.

To complete the plate, we had cranberry hazelnut crisps from Potter’s Crackers and a house-made jam from Wisconsin-grown peaches with a touch of mulling spices. A roaring fire and my take on an old fashioned in hand, the winter cold was held at bay for another delightful evening.