We’ve been combing the hillsides for those sneaky little fun-guys that spring from the forest (or field) every spring.
So far, not much luck.
I did a little research to see if I could find some useful tips to increase our rate of success.
Right off the bat, I learned that the soil needs to be the proper temperature—about 50 degrees. That’s likely the reason the little fellers are slow to show themselves this year. The ground has just been too cold.
But because soil temperature is so important, the south side of the slope is said to grow morels earlier in the season, so keep that in mind as you search.
Morels can grow just about anywhere, but we tend to expect them in certain places, and that’s where we usually go to search.
However, they can come up in old orchards or around logging sites or places where there have been fires, according to Google.
Morels grow slowly, over the period of two or three weeks. I watched a time-lapse video of the growth cycle of a morel that claimed they do not spring up overnight, as some claim.
Another reminder: Use a mesh bag to allow the spores of the captured morels to fall to the ground. Apparently that has something to do with “re-seeding” them.
The best part about finding a sack full of mushrooms is eating them, of course. I like to fry a “mess” or two, but if they are plentiful, I might consider an alternative method of cooking them.
Someone made this comment on one website I searched: “My god, why are you frying them? Do you know how much those things are worth? Give them to a chef that knows what to do with them.”
To that, I say, “baloney!”
That’s like saying a potato should never become a french fry. Sure, they can be prepared in other ways, but it’s hard to go wrong with a crisp and golden fried morel.
However, variety is the spice of life. I found some delicious-sounding alternatives to frying on www.mushroom-appreciation.com. where additional morel recipes can be found.
Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup
This cream of mushroom soup recipe claims to beat the pants off of anything you’ll ever have from a can. Potatoes give it the perfect texture, while retaining the great flavor of morel mushrooms.
1 lb fresh morels, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 cups stock (chicken, mushroom, beef, whatever)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup white wine (use a cup of chicken broth, apple juice, apple cider, white grape juice or ginger ale as a substitute for white wine.)
2 cups water
1 leek, chopped and using only the white part (Ramps from the woods would be a good alternative to leeks, just to keep it local.)
Salt and pepper to taste
Add the water to a soup pot and bring to a low boil. Once boiling, toss in the potatoes and let them cook until quite soft.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the morels and leeks and cook until the morels are just beginning to brown.
Pour in the wine and cook until it has almost entirely evaporated. Then add the stock, stirring frequently. Remove from heat if the potatoes aren’t done yet.
When the potatoes are tender, allow the water to cool a little before putting the mixture into a blender. Blend until smooth and then return to the pot, water included.
Add the morel and leek mixture to the potatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook for a few minutes until it’s heated through.
Add the cream, salt, and pepper and stir until the soup is warmed and thickened to your liking.
Use any pasta you want here. The recipe calls for wide, flat egg noodles but wheat, rice, artichoke, or gluten-free pasta is fine. Just cook it according to the instructions on the package.
1/2 lb of morels
3 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped (vidalia is a great choice)
1 cup shredded cheese (optional, if you don’t want to mask the flavor of your morels)
8 oz egg noodles
Boil water and cook pasta to your desired tenderness.
As the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, and morels. Cook until the mushrooms have given off most of their liquid and are slightly browned. The pan will be crowded so stir frequently. If the mushroom/onion mixture finishes before the pasta does, turn the heat down to low.
Don’t forget to check on the pasta while the mushrooms are cooking. When finished, drain it and put it in the skillet with the other ingredients, mixing them all together.
Cover everything with the shredded cheese and cook until it has melted.
Easy Chicken and Morels
There are so many different ways to prepare this dish. A cream sauce is used here, but you can substitute the cream with white wine for a lighter meal. Feel free to add any spices; just don’t let them mask the taste of those mushrooms!
3 cups morels, sliced lengthwise
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (pounded flat if you have the patience)
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup flour
3 shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. As it’s melting, flour the chicken breast. Don’t worry about using all the flour; just make sure you have enough to dust every chicken piece.
Put the chicken in the skillet and cook, turning over, until lightly browned on both sides. This will probably take 8 to 10 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the skillet and place in a casserole pan. When the oven is ready, pop in the pan and bake until the chicken is heated through.
As the chicken is cooking, melt the other 2 tablespoons of butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add the morels, shallots, and garlic. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
Pour in the chicken stock and cook until it reduces by half.
Add the cream, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Cook until the liquids have reduced to a sauce of the desired consistency.
Keep checking on the chicken as the morels are cooking. When both are done, remove from heat and spoon the sauce over the chicken.