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time for morels

a pile of fresh morelmushrooms

in the spring, when the lilac bushes blossom, the foragers hit the woods in search of morel mushrooms…the hunters keep their sacred grounds secret to protect their prized delicacy, those that share their bounty are revered...this honeycombed fungus is cherished, not only because of its seasonal rarity but also for its earthy, nutty flavor that's unlike any other mushroom

when the call came in that two pounds have been picked and were on their way to me, I was excited to get cooking, and cooking you must, though not poisonous, eaten raw they can cause intense stomach, after a soaking in salt water to rinse out any extra “protein” that may be hiding inside their hollow cap, and a gentle dabbing with paper towels, the first handful is ready to be thrown into a hot pan

allow the butter to melt, cook the morels on a medium-high will see moisture start to build up, continue to cook until the mushrooms absorb all that delicious liquid...a dusting of sea salt & cracked pepper is all that is needed…that pure, simple flavor is one I will always cherish…now I am ready to use them in other dishes, here are my creations from this harvest…

plate heaped with bucatini pasta tossed with morel mushrooms, asparagus, and onions
morel asparagus bucatini

I love a good naked pasta, letting the ingredients shine…

morel asparagus bucatini

½ lb. bucatini noodles

4 tablespoons butter

18 fresh asparagus spears – snapped into pieces, separating the tips

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2 cups fresh morel mushrooms- soaked in salt water

1 large leek, thickly sliced

1/4 cup finely grated gruyere cheese

2 tablespoons fresh dill weed, minced

2 tablespoons pink peppercorns crushed

cook the pasta until just al dente, drain

in the now empty pasta pot, melt the butter, add asparagus stems and garlic, saute until the stems start to soften, then add the drained morels and leeks, when almost done add the asparagus spears, let it cook for another 2 – 3 minutes

toss the drained pasta back into the pot, stir to combine with the mushroom mixture

bring the pasta back up to temp, then add the cheese, dill and peppercorns

once plated, sprinkle with pink sea salt to taste

makes 2 hearty portions

plate with a hamburger steak topped with swiss cheese and morel mushrooms
swiss and morel hamburger steak

this was my husband’s handy work, Doug took his craving for the ultimate mushroom swiss burger to the cast iron pan, but once he tasted the buttery morels, he knew that they couldn’t be smothered under a bun…the nutty flavor from the baby swiss we had just recently purchased during our visit to Wisconsin, was a perfect gooey bed for the hot morels to melt into…a fresh cutting of arugula and chives from my garden was the perfect fresh balance to the richness of this dish

swiss and morel hamburger steak

6 oz ground beef, formed into thick pattie

swiss cheese slice

handful fresh mushrooms, soaked in water

1 tablespoon butter

thyme leaves

cracked black pepper

arugula leaves

chopped fresh chives

vinegar and olive oil

season and cook the beef pattie to your preference

when almost done, lay the cheese on top to melt

in the meanwhile, sauté morels in the butter, sprinkle with thyme & black peppery

plate the hamburger steak, top with mushrooms, drizzle with any remaining juices in the pan

toss the arugula and chives lightly in vinegar and olive oil

plate of egg custard topped with morel mushrooms in demi glaze

this was an excellent way to use the end of the morel batch…Doug wasn’t quite sure about me chopping them up and using them in a creamy custard of sorts, but once they came out of the oven, his opinion changed quickly…

morel egg custard

1 cup finely chopped morel mushrooms

½ cup finely chopped leeks

1 clove garlic, sliced

1 teaspoon rubbed sage

½ teaspoon thyme

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 jumbo egg

1 tablespoon heavy cream

¼ cup demi glaze

8 small whole morel mushrooms

saute the chopped morels, leeks, garlic and herbs in the butter until moisture disappears

add the chicken stock to the pan and bring to the boil, letting it bubble until reduced

add the cream, simmer for a few minutes to thicken, season to taste and leave to cool

whip the egg with 1 tablespoon of cream, stir into mushroom mixture

spoon into 2 buttered small ramekins, place in a deep baking pan filled with water

bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the custard is set

to serve, unmold the custards, top with warm demi glaze that the reserved morels were cooked in

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