I came home today to find this in my fridge. What could it be?
Voila! What a haul!
A full pound of black morels from an undisclosed forest in California.
My dear friends Anna and Robert went foraging this weekend for morel and found three pounds – I am one lucky friend to be gifted with so many. They have the magic morel eye.
I wrote about our divine morel dinner last year at Dinners at Anna’s and their haul that year was spectacular – seven pounds I think.
Imagine, walking through the forest and seeing this beauty, perfectly hidden in the duff, but only if you have that eye to recognize what lies delicately underfoot. I cannot wait to have a functioning ankle to join Anna on a foray someday. Someday soon.
Fresh from the forest they were very dirty and probably had “occupants”. I donned my beautiful, hand-sewn 70’s mushroom fabric apron and found my deepest and tallest bowl. I filled it with cool water and a good sprinkle of salt and started halving them and plopping them in the saline bath.
I ignored the pale tiny squirming worms that appeared on the cloth I was cutting them on. Ignore!!!
An incredible aroma filled my head: rich, woodsy, loamy and that unmistakeable morel fragrance. What beauties.
Some were short and squat, others were slim and tall, others were just massive.
They have a texture unlike any mushroom I have played with, full of nooks and crannies, firm and almost bouncy but fragile enough to crack in your hands if pressed too hard. A true, edible morel is hollow inside from tip to stem. A false morel looks very different.
Not looking at the worm trails, not!
After their soak I pulled them out to heap and fill my largest colander. This is why one must wash wild mushrooms well.
Water so dirty it looked like soup, with about a 1/2 cup of debris
The forest slowly washes away. I lose count on how many changes of water I used but eventually there was a barely imperceptible bit of grit left in the bottom of the bowl. It was time for the morels to drain and relax a bit while I had a glass of wine (and feed the constantly squeaking cat who threatened to trip me as I moved about the kitchen).
I also took a little time to explore Hank Shaw’s amazing and nationally recognized blog for morel recipes, such as his favorite morel sauce for venison. My pantry is well stocked and I just happened to have some veal demiglace and some good port, so I pulled those out.
I have enough morel to make a batch of this sauce several times over, so I decided to make one batch and then sauté the rest just in butter.
I used an entire stick of butter in my skillet and when it was melted and a little browned I piled in the morels. What a fragrance, my entire apartment was filled, it was heady and intoxicating.
After they cooked for about 10 minutes, their liquid evaporated and concentrated into the butter. I heaped them into a freezer container and let them cool. The sun had set, I had started drinking the port and I needed to get off my feet. Farewell little morels, I will play with you soon! They will rest in the freezer until I am ready. What riches…
I hope there is no need to tell you that you should never eat wild mushrooms unless you are an expert, or happen to be friends with experts. Even experts make mistakes which is why my friends limit their foraging to species that are unmistakable – again to an expert. Eating the wrong mushroom can result in the death of your liver and kidneys and no meal is worth that risk. If you have any question at all about a mushroom, don’t even touch it, and leave it to the experts such as those at Far West Fungi.