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Morel Mushrooms

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What is it?

A morel is a hollow, ace-of-spades-shaped mushroom, full of little pits and ridges. At its opening is a narrow, tube-like stem. The rains of early spring trigger the morel season, and by mid-May the mushrooms are in full flush.

These conical honeycombed mushrooms are treasured for their rich, intense flavor and are delicious when simply sautéed in butter. Enjoy them on their own, or top roasted or grilled meats and poultry with them.

Dried morels have a nutty, buttery, and somewhat smoky flavor that goes beautifully with spring ingredients like asparagus and spring onions (or ramps, if you can find them). The hollow, honeycombed caps of wild morels can harbor sandy grit. With cultivated varieties this isn’t as much of a problem, but to be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to rinse dried morels with water before soaking them. Use this recipe to dry the morels.

How to choose:

To select fresh morels, look for dry, unbroken specimens. Gray streaks in the pits usually mean mold is forming. The aroma should be of dead leaves and freshly turned soil. Any mushroom that smells dank or musty is past its prime.

How to prep:

Fresh morels are often home to little critters, so before cooking, cut them in half and examine their chambers, flicking out any unwanted guests. Unless they’re extremely dirty, don’t wash morels; just brush them off with a damp towel.

Dried morels will reconstitute in about 45 minutes. Simply cover them in hot water (add a dash of cognac if you like) and give them a squeeze every few minutes to see how they’re doing. Drain, press out the excess liquid, and you’re all set. They’ll keep another day in the refrigerator once they’ve been brought back to life. The reconstituting liquid, whether hot water or a higher-octane water-and-cognac combo, gives you mushroom stock. Reduced and strained, you get a concentrated mushroom jus.

How to store:

Store fresh morels in a brown paper bag in the fridge and use them within a few days.


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