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Morel Mushrooms

Cooking Morel Mushrooms at its Finest!

Mushrooms, for the most part, make me think of spring. Like asparagus, peas, ramps, and fiddleheads, morels are a harbinger of spring and a welcome earthy counterpoint to the fresh, grassy flavors of those other vernal ingredients. As you’ll find with a lot of mushrooms, seek out fresh, firm, and dry morels. Morels are also easy to prepare and cook, as long as you know a few key pieces of information.

Cooking Morel Mushrooms

Morels are edible wild mushrooms that are related to the truffle and prized by chefs and foodies alike. The earthy, nutty, and smokey flavor and unique honeycomb texture and shape make these wild mushrooms the star of any dish, especially since they need very little embellishment when cooked.

Once dried, you simply rehydrate them to use in recipes like sautéed morels. Dried morels are easy to rehydrate. Simply put the amount you want to use in a bowl and cover it with water. Let sit until the morels are soft and pliable, about 20 minutes. Reserve the soaking liquid to use in the dish you’re cooking, or use it as a jump-start to make vegetarian broth if you like.

cooking morels

To cook morels, start by searing them in oil over high heat to brown them, just as you would other mushrooms.

The morels will soften and brown. Some recipes have you cook morels from start to finish in butter, but we find that the butter will burn before the morels are sufficiently browned. It’s better to brown the mushrooms first, saving the butter for the end.

saute morels

Then add minced onion, shallots, and/or garlic, lowering the heat to prevent scorching. (If you add these before browning the mushrooms, you risk burning them as the mushrooms sear.)

morels with butter
Add a very generous pat of butter, which will melt and soak into all the little crevices in the morel caps.

I like to add a splash of soy sauce, which pumps up the umami depth, along with some lemon juice to brighten the whole thing up. A little stock or water helps emulsify the butter into a creamy, mushroomy sauce thick enough to coat and soak into the morels.

Some green herbs right at the end, like parsley, chervil, or minced chives, add a hit of freshness, and, of course, seasoning with salt and pepper is important. Make sure to go easy on the salt and taste if you’ve used soy sauce—it’s already brought some saltiness to the mix.

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