Ah, spring is in the air, and naturally, a cook’s fantasies start wandering to those few (in Maine) but precious ingredients that signify the season.

This menu highlights morels — the mushroom of spring — and asparagus. For a company meal, add a rice pilaf, perhaps with a pinch of saffron, and finish with something featuring strawberries and/or rhubarb.


Morels are foraged every year in Maine by knowledgeable local people. They have dark brown, pitted conical caps, and some say they look like a sponge on a stick. But they taste divine, with a rich, woodsy flavor that harkens back to the earth from which they spring.

Morels are beautifully showcased in this dressed-up chicken dish, which combines them with leeks, cream and some good white wine. 

Servings: Four 

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

5 slender leeks, thinly sliced (white and pale green parts only)

8 ounces (about 3 cups) morel mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed; halved if large (see note)

1 cup slightly sweet white wine such as Riesling

1 cup heavy cream

Juice of half a lemon

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley 

Season chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour, shaking off excess. Heat the butter in a large skillet with lid. Cook the chicken over medium heat until golden brown on both sides, about 8 minutes. Remove to a plate, leaving the drippings in the pan. 

Add the leeks, cover the pan, and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release their aroma and start to wilt, about 3 minutes. Add the wine, raise the heat to high, and boil briskly until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.

Add the cream, return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan, and simmer uncovered until sauce is lightly reduced and thickened and chicken is completely cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes.

Squeeze in the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. (The dish can be made up to 4 hours ahead and refrigerated. Reheat gently before serving.) Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

NOTE: Dried morels are an excellent substitute. Use about a handful, and pour boiling water over them and reconstitute by soaking for an hour or so.

And if you can’t get morels, substitute porcini, portabello or almost any other wild or cultivated mushroom — fresh or dried.


A Dutch farmer has been credited with bringing asparagus to Massachusetts in the 18th century, and — once here — it proved to grow well in most parts of New England.

Asparagus beds also seem congenial with the cultural climate of the region. The beds take years of watchful waiting until they begin to produce a good crop, a situation that is not incompatible with the low-key Yankee temperament.

During the spring asparagus orgy, when you’d like a change from simple steamed asparagus, try roasting the spears. They emerge from the oven slightly caramelized, and their flavor seems intensified.

Servings: Four

1½ pounds asparagus, preferably medium-thick

1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Juice from half a lemon 

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and, if you’re feeling fancy, peel the stems. Spread out onto a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat with the oil.

Roast in the preheated oven until crisp-tender and the tips are tinged with dark brown, 6 to 10 minutes, depending on size.

Squeeze lemon juice over and serve.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Lobster!” (Storey, 2012). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at: facebook.com/brookedojny