Wild, organic, locally picked morels? Um, yeah!
When I was presented with an opportunity to purchase some fresh wild morels this year I jumped at the chance. My friend Andrea is a morel (məˈrel) fanatic. The girl is obsessed with these elusive delicacies. She purchases several pounds per year during their short season here in Iowa. This year I was lucky enough to score a pound myself.
The morel is from the Fungi kingdom and basically is a mushroom. They are prized by gastronomes and food fanatics alike because of their hearty earthy flavor. Fresh morels can be hard to come across due to their short growing season in the spring which is dependent on certain temperatures and rain fall. Simple supply and demand can make these little morsels very expensive.
Morels are very popular in cuisines throughout the world including French Provencal. They are also popular here in Iowa. Andrea grew up eating this delicacy in her grandmother’s kitchen. I love grandmas that cook. They are very good at knowing where to source and how to prepare some of the best foods.
I had never cooked a morel so Andrea advised. One popular way is to saute in vegetable oil, butter, with a light dusting in flour until golden brown.
Another popular version is to dip the morels into a beaten egg, roll in crushed saltine crackers and then fry.
My cracker meal may not be as finely crushed as yours, but it did help relieve some stress. Texture gives character.
To prepare I cut off the very bottom of the stem, rinsed them each in water, then dried them gently. You want to be careful not to expose the morels to too much water for too long. They are a type of mushroom and will absorb water like a sponge.
I dip, you dip, we dip into the egg.
This one is just dipped in flour. After this first attempt I understand what she means by light dusting. If you have too much flour and not enough fry time you can end up with a gummy morel. Not good… Ensure to shake to remove all excess flour.
The third option I tried was just to saute the morels with some salt and pepper.
Viola! Floured morels on the left. Saltine encrusted on the right.
Sautéed Morels. Look at all the wonderful juice. They would make an excellent addition to a risotto! Mmmmm.
Overall, anyway you prepare the morel you can count on them being delicious. I liked all versions I prepared. Earthy, umami, goodness in every bite. I think next year I will need to have Andrea, the expert, prepare them for me to compare and take notes.
If you love mushrooms and have a chance to try fresh morels, give them a shot. They are worth it.