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Fresh Morels Are Nutty and Delicate

Fine Cooking Issue 45
Photo: Amy Albert
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At the market, look for plump, fresh-looking morels that feel heavy for their size; skip any that look shriveled. Grit nestles easily in those honeycombed caps, so morels need cleaning before cooking: split the mushrooms lengthwise (they’re hollow throughout) and wipe gently with a damp paper towel or a soft-bristled brush. If you must rinse morels, do it briefly and be sure to blot the mushrooms dry.

Morels are terrific in sautés, pastas, gratins, stuffings, and even pan sauces; the spongy caps are great at soaking up flavors. Sauté shallots and morels in butter, deglaze with white wine, and, if you like, finish with a bit of cream to savor as a side dish or as a topping for mushroom risotto. Or, include peas and asparagus in the sauté, loosen it with more cream or chicken stock, and toss with linguine or fettuccine for an appetizer or supper. Add small, halved morels to a pan-sauce for seared steak, chicken, or pork chops.

Morels thrive in the woods, but cultivated examples are becoming much more common, so unless you’re with an experienced mushroomer, skip hunting in the forest and stick to foraging at the market. False morels, which resemble regular ones, are deadly.


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