Sunday, April 10, 2011

Winter hardy bunching onions - spring is here

 I know spring is here when the sorrel and chive plants on the east and south sides of our house are about 6 inches high.  When the first nubs of the rhubarb leaves push up through the soil.  And when Frank brings home a big clump of bunching onions. Between the fresh onions and preserved food in our pantry, we are still managing to prepare some nice homegrown meals even though not much is happening in the garden yet.

The onions were such a nice surprise this morning.  Some girls like roses.  Me -  a clump of white and green spring onions with some mud still clinging to the roots is the best bouquet I know.  Right about now I am ready for something green from the garden.  I still have a few parsnips and potatoes and one large beet in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator.  They will be eaten and enjoyed.   But the Featherstone cabbage, radishes, carrots and our homemade sauerkraut are all gone.  I actually bought some romaine lettuce at the store last week.  I couldn't help it.  I needed something green and crunchy. 

Green spring onions can be used in many ways - in an omelet, fried rice or added to a salad.  My mother loves them plain, with a little salt and a glass of cold beer.  I decided to be more ambitious today because I needed to make a dish for a potluck.  I cooked up a big pot of polenta.  Then I made a morel mushroom sauce to layer with the cooked polenta and some thinly sliced white cheddar cheese. 

Those of us fortunate enough to live in SE Minnesota near the Big Woods have access to morel mushrooms every May if we are willing to tramp through the woods with our eyes wide open.  In our house we usually have more than we can eat fresh so Frank dries them - slowly - at room temperature under a ceiling fan and finishes them off in baskets sitting in a sunny open window (screened).  I poured some boiling water on about 1 1/2 cups of the dried beauties.  After they were soft I strained the water (dried morels often have a little grit in them), saving it for the sauce.

Read the captions to these pictures to see how I made the sauce.  It is simple to layer it with some polenta in a casserole dish and then bake it. 
Mise en place for mushroom sauce: green onions, shallots, dried morel mushrooms, white cheddar cheese and olive oil

I cooked a big pot of polenta - made from Roy's Calais flint corn, ground in our Kitchenaid mixer grain mill attachment

Chopped Evergreen Hardy White Bunching onions - the most winter hardy bunching onion.  These are from onions first planted 6/2009.  They have overwintered two years.  Need to eat them now - they will be too woody later

Chopped shallots from our garden.  Why are store shallots so expensive?

See the grit?  That's why I strained the mushroom soaking water

This is one nice pile of reconstituted dried morels.  I am guessing they have a street value of about $60.  We got them for free.  Well, Frank got a few scratches from brambles- so he did pay some price.  But worth it.

I sauteed chopped shallots, green onions (the white part) and some bell pepper in olive oil.  Then I added about 2 T. flour and cooked it well.  Then added 1 1/2 cups liquid - strained mushroom soaking liquid, milk and cream.

First a layer of polenta.  Then some mushroom cream sauce.  Then some chopped green onion tops.  Then thin sliced cheese (white cheddar is what I used.)

Close up of the sauce before I added the cheese.  Bake in a moderate oven until heated through.

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