Saturday, May 16, 2009
Morels and Farmer’s Market
Our first Saturday home for the Farmer’s Market Season. It was 41 degrees with a raw wind when we rounded the rows of vendors to see Becca & Joe’s stand. Becca was there with Sarah, their intern. They were bundled up in woolen hats and sweaters. Becca was shivering, and said she wished she’d worn long underwear. Man, it was cold.
We came home with fresh eggs, asparagus, a bundle of early garlic, and a bag of greens. But it was the morels I would have forgone coffee for a week, not eaten chocolate for a month. I hesitated at $24.00 a pound and almost walked away. Then I thought, no. Let’s see what $5.00 would get and as they were weighed out I listened to the conversations around me. One guy, Larry, said he was out turkey hunting this past week and happened on a patch and picked ten pounds. Sold them instantly to a local restaurant. Someone else said, ya, round here they began showing up last Tuesday and may be around another ten days if you’re lucky enough to find ’em or rich enough to buy.
In our age of being able to purchase any food from anywhere anytime it’s rare to not find whatever you fancy. However, morel mushrooms defy domestication and refuse to grow under artificial conditions. Their needs remain a mystery and they show up only when and where they want. Which is partly why no one will ever tell you exactly where they find this treasure, unless you threaten to kill them or kidnap their children.
I appreciate morels for the very reason that they are rare. When I get a few once every other year or so, I could roll in crap like a dog I’m so pleased. We came home this morning and I sautéed the garlic and some fresh asparagus for a cheese omelet. And even though vendors and chefs will suggest adding chopped morels to something like an omelet, or will have you add them to a sauce for meat or some such, I can’t EVER do that. I ALWAYS eat them pure and undefiled. I prepare the mushrooms, which are about as ugly a phallic knock-off as you could imagine, by.. oh, I might as well post it as a recipe...:
Sauteed Morel Mushrooms
Soaking briefly in salted water. This rinses off some of the dirt and brings the insects crawling out of crevices. Drain, pat gently in paper towels.
Cut in half lengthwise.
Make a simple light batter with 1/3 cup flour, 1/3 to 1/2 cup milk, one egg, a little salt and pepper. Whisk together.
Drop morels in batter and very carefully fish out one by one and drop in a fairly hot frying pan sizzling with butter. It only takes about three minutes to brown them lightly on both sides and drain on paper. Should be eaten hot. O man, Paradise!
The only thing about morels in my life that isn’t perfect is Denis -- who hates mushrooms and has nothing good to say about them, and digs them out of every dish that might contain a few, saying if God had intended us to eat “fungus” they’d be called by a different name, (he’s not ALWAYS the logical half of our partnership) LOVES morels. Thus, I don’t get to eat them all myself.