Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Morchella Eschulenta (Morel Mushrooms)
It has been perfect morel mushroom weather. A cool, moist spring with a few warm days causes this strange woodland treasure to appear for those who have eyes to see and enough stamina to push through miles of thorny vines and masses of tangled brush and trees. Anita and I have tromped through promising woodlands for hours looking and haven't found a single one. The vendors who sell them at Farmers Market have a slightly scornful look for the pitiful folks who step up to pay $30.00 a pound for their springtime addiction. To us it is like junk. White Tiger Heroine from Maynmar. Truffles from France. Etc.
This week I thought maybe we could afford a small treat. You know. A tiny amount. I could buy exactly 9 medium mushrooms - about 1/2 pound. That would give us three each. That is what I planned to do until last Sunday when Joe, our friend from Heartbeet Farm, offered to take us out to a wooded area near their farm.
After two hours of searching and Denis getting lost, we were about to give up when Joe found a large patch poking out of the decay and leaf litter. Denis wrote a beautiful blog about our experience http://www.blog4critique.blogspot.com/. You should go read it now.
It was almost enough to pick them and just fondle them without ever getting to eat. I couldn't bring myself to hope for more, but when Joe insisted we take them all, it felt like Christmas, like strawberries and cream, like unmerited grace.
I can't imagine preparing them any other way than the way my mother taught me. Anything else seems like an awful waste. Sinful. I'd rather have two intense morel-ly bites than a sliver here and there lost in a pasta dish or quiche.
Look how they blend in with surroundings and are very difficult to see.
Happy with a basket FULL of morels. This must be about four meals worth.
First, cut the large ones in half lengthwise and soak in cold salt water about 5 minutes. This drives out little critters hiding in the crevasses. Drain and individually rinse each one under running cold water. Handle gently. Morels are hollow so shake the water out through the stem. Place on a clean dish towel and pat dry. Don't worry about a little dirt in the cracks. It won't hurt you. You need bacterial diversity, don't you?
Mix a simple tempura-like batter.
1/2 cup flour (Or substitute corn starch to be gluten-free. It takes a little more to get the right consistency.)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 t. salt, 1/2 t. garlic salt, pepper
Whisk together in shallow bowl. Should be the consistency of cheap paint. Not too thick. Dip mushrooms in and turn to coat.
Saute in medium hot skillet with plenty of butter for browning. They should sizzle when placed in pan. Press down on them a little to flatten. Turn when browned and crisp. Doesn't take long. Drain on paper towels. Eat while hot.
I was right. We've had them on three occasions and enough for one more round. Grace upon grace, we've never had this many morels! I'm all for experimenting with food. But not here. Not with these.