Chicken and Morels in Madiera Sauce

<img alt="Morels"/>
There’s an asset to having two sons who work for Whole Foods.  When something arrives in the produce section that’s unusual, or that other markets here would never stock, I get a phone call.  The last time, the call was to let me know that morels were in.

Sure, I knew that morel season had pretty much drawn to a close so who knows what I’d find, but I didn’t care.  It had been years since I’d made anything with morels, and at that time, they’d been dried — also hard to come by around here.  And although the dried morels were tasty, they left me wondering what fresh morels might taste like.

I love mushrooms and outside of dessert, there aren’t too many ways I haven’t tried them.  Whenever I see a type of mushroom I’ve not heard of, or haven’t seen in the store before, I will try them.  It never fails that when I get to the check-out, the clerk comments on how expensive they are.  I disagree.

Mushrooms don’t weigh very much, so even if they’re anywhere from $20 to nearly $50 a pound, a quarter of a pound goes a very long way in a lovely sauce.

When I got to Whole Foods, clearly others had been in the same frame of mind as myself, because there weren’t many morels left.  And since I’ve never seen a fresh morel other than from photos, I wasn’t sure about which ones to put in my bag.  Some seemed too dry, and others, too damp.  And the color varied from very dark, to very light with sizes all over the place.

I was only comfortably able to scrape up about 4 ounces and wanted at least a half pound so also purchased some Crimini mushrooms to fill in.  I know, but at least I would finally get to try a fresh morel.

Chicken and Morels in Madiera Sauce


6 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
1 T butter
2 T olive oil
4 oz. fresh morels
4 oz. Crimini mushrooms
3 T all-purpose flour
1 lg. shallot, chopped, about 1/4 c.
2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1/2 c. Madiera
3/4 c. hot chicken broth
2 T heavy cream
2 T chopped chives
2 T chopped chervil


  1. In a large skillet, warm the olive oil and butter over medium heat.  Salt and pepper the chicken thighs, then skin side down, fry the chicken thighs until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes on each side.  Remove to a platter.
  2. While the chicken is browning, slice the mushrooms in half or quarters, depending on their size.  Pour flour into a plastic bag, then mushrooms, shaking lightly to coat.  Season lightly with salt and pepper, remove from bag and discard excess flour.
  3. Pour floured mushrooms into the pan chicken was browned in, and saute, stirring occasionally, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add the shallots, and garlic, and saute, one minute.  Add the Madiera, scraping bits from the bottom of the pan, stirring, about one minute.
  5. Return chicken to the pan with the mushroom mixture and pour in the chicken broth.  Sprinkle on the herbs, cover, and let simmer until the chicken is done, about 25 minutes.
  6. Remove chicken to a serving platter, then scatter mushrooms over the top, reserving the sauce in the pan.  Raise heat, and continue to cook sauce until it thickens slightly.  Add the heavy cream, check seasonings, and pour over the chicken and mushrooms.

Chicken and Morels

Recipe Notes:

  • I was glad I added the Crimini mushrooms to this mix because it was interesting to think about the difference in flavor between those and the morels.  The morels had flavor.  The Criminis didn’t.  The morels had an almost nutty taste to them, but not one that was sharp, or too strong.  No sweetness, not too much earthiness as some mushrooms can have.  The texture was firm, and though “crunchy” isn’t quite right, I could tell when I bit into one.
  • I’d read that morels could be quite gritty, and so to think about cleaning them, knew that water wouldn’t be the best choice, even though one source said to briefly spray with with cold water.  I decided that a quick dunk in a sieve would be okay, and then shook them to dislodge any sediment.  There was quite a bit in the bottom of the sieve.
  • This is a very quick and easy meal with lots of room for alteration.  Skinless and boneless breasts would be great, and significantly reduce the cooking time.  A mixture of mushrooms that have flavor would be fine if you can’t get morels.  I’m wondering about Chantrelles since I rarely see them in the store, either.  They’re my favorite.  But if it’s a less expensive mushroom you’re looking for, then give oyster mushrooms a chance.  They’re pretty strange looking, very irregularly shaped, nearly white in color, and without the caps people usually identify mushrooms with.  A mix, including some dry ones that have been re-hydrated would be very good.  You could use the soaking liquid instead of the chicken broth if you remember to filter out any sediment first.
  • Chervil isn’t an herb I see around here often, so when I see it, I buy it.  It looks like delicate parsley, but has a much more mild, almost sweet taste, than parsley which to me is almost bitter.  Thyme would be lovely in this dish.
  • If you’ve never tried Madiera before, this is the dish to try it in.  It’s not expensive, and it’s a perfect thing to keep in your pantry.  It’s perfect with sauteed mushrooms and just about anything.  A dab of cream, or creme fraiche, or even yogurt can really make something plain quite luxurious.

And here’s what I’ve learned about morels…

  • Lots of organizations around the world support and enjoy morel “hunts”
  • Morels are often found and collected right as snow begins to recede, especially in areas after fires.  California has lots and lots of fires…
  • Sustained commercial growing efforts haven’t been successful.
  • Morels can also be found growing beneath rotting trees, and in orchards.
  • Other mushrooms can be mistaken for morels, so it’s important to know your mushrooms if you’re the one doing the hunting, or hunt with experts.
  • Morels should never be eaten raw.
  • There are on-line sources for both dried and frozen morels, but I haven’t tried any of them…yet…