Dress a Dish with Wild Morels

Turn a spring hike into a hunt for this gourmet, honeycombed 'shroom.

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In May, morel mushrooms fruit in forests across North America. Scout around dying trees, traverse in fire scars, and bring back to camp a bounty with international reverence. Just in time, here are three savory morel-icious recipes to serve them up in.

Battered and Fried Morels

A morel lover’s favorite appetizer

10 morels

1 cup flour

1 egg

2 tbs. of butter (or oil)

2 tsp. of salt

At home: Put flour in zip-top bag.

In camp: Halve morels lengthwise and evict any insects; set aside. Fork-whisk egg in a bowl. Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Dip morels in egg and then roll in flour. Fry mushrooms until golden brown, around 5-10 minutes, turning frequently. Season with salt. Serves 3.

Morel Asparagus “Risotto” 

Marry two spring harvests in a delicious pasta.

½ lb of morels

3 tbs. of olive oil

½ cup dry white wine

1 cup orzo

2 cups chicken broth

¾ cup of grated parmesan

½ lb of asparagus

Salt and pepper

At home: Shred parmesan. Cut asparagus on bias, 2”long. Store each in a zip-top bag.

In camp: Cut and clean morels. Heat one tablespoon of oil in pan. First sauté asparagus until bright green and slightly tender; set aside. Heat remaining oil and add mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add wine and simmer until evaporated. Stir in orzo and chicken broth. Simmer until broth is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Mix in asparagus and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 4.

Morel Soup with Bacon and Potatoes 

A subtle-flavored feast 

¾ lb chopped morels

3 medium russet potatoes

1 cup vegetable stock

1 cup evaporated (condensed, unsweetened) milk

1 onion

½ c. dry white wine

2 tbs. butter

2 cups water

Salt and pepper

At home: Fry 6 slices of bacon. Crumble strips and store in zip-top bag. 

In camp: Peel and chop potatoes and onion. Boil both in water for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and mash against side of pot with fork to make smooth; set aside. Clean morels. Gently cook mushrooms in a pan with butter and salt for 15 minutes. Don’t allow them to dry out; splash with wine to keep moist. When almost done, add wine and simmer until liquid evaporates. Stir in vegetable stock. Combine morel mixture, bacon bits and potato mash. Simmer 5 minutes, while stirring. Add milk. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 4.

Harvest Sustainably

Before your foray: Pick up a mushroom guide that distinguishes morels from other spring mushrooms. Laws and regulations differ by region. Check with local forest managers to see if you need a mushroom collecting permit. Pack a pocket knife and a paper bag.

Collect your mushrooms: Flush cut morels with the ground. “Plucking” them from the soil damages their root system. Harvest only firm, fresh morels in the amount of what you anticipate eating. 

Keep your find fresh: Brush off dirt before dropping them in your tote; and carry morels in a mesh bag or a basket (not plastic). They need to breathe so their moisture doesn’t turn to mold. 

Eat your first morels: In moderation to be sure you’re not allergic. Don’t eat raw morels; and don’t inhale the fumes of cooking morels. 

Erin Halcomb