Come fully fed. Don’t try anything too weird.
Those were the caveats for coming over to dinner at chef Bonnie Frumkin Morales’ parents’ house. Having grown up with immigrant parents, Morales pushed away her family’s Soviet food traditions while she sought out diverse culinary experiences. But that all changed after a date with her then-boyfriend, now husband.
“He walked away from his first time having dinner at my parents’ house with wide eyes. He was amazed and said it was some of the best food he’d ever eaten and he wanted more of it,” Morales remembers. “So we started going to my parents’ house more and more. My mom started to get excited too. She started making things she hadn’t made in a while.”
As the pair continued to date, they talked about more and more about her family’s recipes and slowly her husband began to change the way Morales thought about the food she grew up with.
Now, her restaurant Kachka spotlights the immigrant recipes from her culture and shares the narrative of her Belarusian-Jewish roots, with modernized ingredients and updated technique.
Here is a recipe from her latest book “Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking.”
Braised chanterelles and potatoes
My brother is a 1990s hippie: toured with Phish every summer, wore the same Mexican poncho for
weeks on end. In 2000, he followed his hacky-sack- playing brethren to Portland. He was the first in my very tight-knit extended family to move from Chicago, and this was viewed with much skepticism—why would he choose this wild western outpost? It turned out he had good reason—in addition to fine beer, good food, and actual civilization (who knew?), the Pacific Northwest is absolutely overflowing with forest treasures like chanterelles.
Chanterelles, or lisichki in Russian, are highly coveted in the motherland. My brother would bring
bucketloads of them back to Chicago whenever he visited, hitting the farmer’s market on the way to the airport to arrive with a sort of peace offering. My mother would instantly snap them up and cook this dish.
Chanterelles have a delicate taste, and take well to a hearty-yet- gentle preparation. The cream works its way into the mushrooms, the mushroom flavor suffuses the potatoes, and everything just becomes deliciously rich and transformed. Don’t think about adding any other ingredients to this dish—the beauty is in its simplicity, letting the fragile flavor of chanterelles come through undisputed.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
2 lbs chanterelles
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1½ cups heavy cream
1½ cups smetana (page 351) or European-style sour cream
1½ Tbsp kosher salt
2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1½-inch chunks
Clean the chanterelles: Fill a large bowl or salad spinner with water, then thoroughly clean the mushrooms by dunking them in and vigorously swishing them around to shake loose any debris. Remove quickly, and repeat the process with fresh water until all the mushrooms are clean. Spread the mushrooms out on clean dish towels to dry.
Cook down the mushrooms with butter: Tear any very large chanterelles into halves or quarters. Heat a medium-sized Dutch oven or heavy-sided pot over medium heat, and melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and cook down, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms give off their liquid and it mostly evaporates, about 10 minutes (you can cover the pot until the liquid comes out, so that the mushrooms don’t scorch, but then remove the cover to help the liquid cook off).
Combine ingredients: While the mushrooms are cooking, whisk together the heavy cream, smetana, and salt. When the mushrooms have cooked down, pour in the cream mixture, and stir everything together. Add the potatoes and stir again, coating everything with the braising liquid.
Simmer: Bring the mixture to a simmer and partially cover (leave a small crack to let steam escape), then reduce the heat until it’s just high enough to maintain the gentlest possible simmer. Simmer for 2 to 3 hours, or until the potatoes and cream have both turned a light golden brown, and the liquid has cooked down a bit but is still saucy.
Serve: Check it once an hour or so to see that things are moving along (no need to stir). Serve hot, with a bit of crusty bread to sop up the sauce if desired.