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pine pollen pasta with morels and fir tips

Gifts of the Pine

I make no apologies for this recipe. Yes, it will be hard to recreate at home. But not impossible. And the real point is to bring together all the gifts of the pine in one dish. The pine pollen, which you can buy in stores or online, is a nice touch in the pasta, but it adds more color than flavor. Pine nuts you can buy. Morels, too, although this dish is better with fresh ones than dried. The demi-glace, which is a thickened, reduced stock, you can either buy or use this recipe to make yourself.
Course Pasta
Cuisine American
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Serves 4 people
Author Hank Shaw

Ingredients

PASTA

  • 3 tablespoons pine pollen, ,bout 3/4 ounce
  • A scant 2 cups semolina flour, 9 1/4 ounces
  • About 1/2 cup of water, or 4 ounces
  • 2 to 4 drops of essential oil of pine (optional)

TO SERVE

  • 3/4 pound morel mushrooms, sliced into disks
  • 2 ounces of wild onions, about a dozen, chopped and separated into green and white parts
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • Salt
  • 1 cup champagne or white wine
  • 2 tablespoons demi glace
  • Black pepper
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped young fir or spruce tips, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Make the pasta first. Whisk together the pine pollen and the semolina. Add the pine oil to the water and pour it into the flour. Mix well and knead for a solid 5 to 8 minutes. This is a stiff dough, but it will incorporate eventually. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and leave it out on the counter for an hour or three. Or, if you have a vacuum sealer, seal the dough. You can then work with it pretty much immediately, as the vacuum instantly hydrates the dough.
  2. When you're ready, shape the dough so you can cut it into 4 to 6 equal pieces. Keep all the pieces you are not working with covered in plastic wrap. Roll the piece of dough you are working with out into a snake the thickness of your little finger. Cut it into pieces about as wide as your first finger. Use a gnocchi board to roll off each cavatello, using enough pressure with your first finger (or two fingers if the pasta bit is wide) to make the center part of the cavatello thin. You'll get the hang of it quickly. Set your cavatelli on a baking sheet you've dusted with some semolina.
  3. Get a large pot of water boiling and salt it well. You want it to taste like the sea.
  4. Put the morels and the white parts of the chopped wild onions into a large saute pan dry. Turn the heat to high and wait for them to sizzle. When they do, drop the heat to medium-high and stir them around a bit. They will release their water. Salt them when they do. When most of the water has boiled away, add the butter and toss to combine. Sear until the morels start to brown.
  5. Add the pine nuts, champagne and glace de viande and boil furiously until the liquid has almost boiled away. Turn off the heat and add the green parts of the wild onions and toss to combine.
  6. Boil the pasta, removing it about 30 seconds after it floats to the surface. Add it to the saute pan, along with some black pepper and the fir tips. Toss to combine and serve at once.

The fir tips you'll need to gather yourself. They're ready from March in hot, low elevations up until early July in the mountains. Incidentally, you will want to chop them for the dish, unlike in the picture. Big pieces of fir tips were too much of a palate wrecker.