My favorite soup in my childhood had to be cream of mushroom – ugh, ok, the kind that came in a can, I’ll admit. Well, it was tasty yet easy to make. (I have since graduated to making mine from scratch, which is basically sautéed criminis cooked in stock finished with cream.) Then there were those braised shitake mushrooms that my mom used to put on the dinner table all the time. They were, quite simply, dried shitake mushrooms reconstituted and braised in seasoned stock for a couple of hours. Nothing fancy, but it was really delicious. And, the first time I had truffle, it was on a simple pasta with few ingredients - pasta, butter, an ample shaving of truffle on top to be exact. The flavor was just out of this world.
“Ok. I get it. Mushrooms are simple to cook and they reward you with plenty of flavors,” I hear you say. To that I’ll reply, “Thank you as always for being a great listener. Will you possibly indulge me just a little more so I can tell you the kind of mushrooms that has stolen my heart?”
They are gorgeous, aren’t they? Yes, they are morel mushrooms. They hold a special place not only in my heart, but in many a mushroom-lover’s.
Every spring, hordes of morel mushroom hunters scour all over forests for these little treasures that sprout up from the earth as the weather turns warm. Since morels have not been widely cultivated in success, those you get from markets are actually picked one by one, in the wild, by experienced hunters who, of course, know their mushrooms well. Yes, there are indeed look-alike impostors that are poisonous, as in deadly. Morels’ colors vary from yellow to brown, grey to black. They have honey-comb-like ridges all over their thick cores or stems, which are hollow by the way. Large ones are great for stuffing. Fresh morels have a shelf life of only a few days. They like to be kept cool and dry. So only clean them when you are ready to cook, since you shouldn’t eat them raw.
You can find morels in dried form, which are great for making sauces. (Just soak them in very warm water for 30 minutes before you cook them. The soaking liquid has a lot of flavor too.) But when they are in season, it seems only fitting to take advantage of nature’s abundance and cook with the fresh kind. Morels have such an intense earthy flavor that I prefer them prepared in the simplest way. A quick sauté of these little morsels of goodness, in my mind, is the best way to enjoy them. If you haven’t tried them, here’s one simple recipe that I promise will deliver the flavor of morels to your taste buds, straight up. I have a feeling you’ll like that.
Morel Mushrooms and Scrambled Egg for Two
4oz Fresh Morel Mushrooms*
¼ Cup Half and Half
4 Tablespoons of Butter
Enough slices of Baguette for two
First, clean the morel mushrooms. Soak them in a large bowl of cold salted water for 30 minutes, or longer if desired. (Some people disagree with the salt water practice as they believe it would detract from the morel flavor. It’s your call.) About a tablespoon of salt would do. Then drain and pat morels dry with paper towel. Cut in half lengthwise.
Heat a skillet (non-stick would be handy) on medium heat. Add two tablespoons of butter. When butter has melted, add morels. Stir them around. Add a pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 - 7 minutes.
While morels cook, beat eggs. Mix in half and half and a pinch of salt. Set aside. Toast slices of baguettes.
When morels are cooked, remove from skillet and keep warm.
Return skillet to heat. Melt remaining butter and cook eggs until the desired doneness. Serve eggs and morel mushrooms on toast, with a dash of freshly ground black pepper.
*If you cannot find fresh morels, try a mix of fresh chanterelles, oyster mushrooms and shitakes.