Friday, June 19, 2009

Morel Adventures

I love to stumble across a morel on a spring morning as my less than focused gaze glides along the base of ash trees--a sort of soft radar, a non-evasive foray into the mystery of brown and golden soldiers scattered across land, convincing me that any rational or scientific approach to determine their whereabouts will be dismissed by them as not an arcane enough approach and therefore one not to be rewarded. The harder you look the less you see. You look and rant and try to control the universe in which they belong, and then suddenly, they are there at your feet saying, “I’ve been here all along.”

Everyone has their favorite morel recipe, which more often is a morel story, as the adventure is half the prize. Recently someone dumped some dirt into a mound on a hill top road, where walking, not stalking to forage, is the rule. But there they were, popping out of the top of a small heap. The perfunctory ash tree stood watching me snap a blondie just inches away.

I prefer to cut out the bottoms, get a pastry bag, fill it with some rabbit mousse and shoot it into the hollow cavity of the morel. Bake in the oven not too hotly with some stock in the bottom of the pan until the mousse firms up, gets warm, and the morel starts giving off its woody tobacco sweetness without drying out.

Add some butter at the end into the pan with stock and there’s your sauce. Haunting textures, aromas, and flavors never forgotten.

Aside from sautéing them in butter with a drop of lemon, I also like to dry out the morels and grind them into a powder that can be used as a seasoning--or better yet as a coating, like breadcrumbs, on a piece of lamb or chicken. Great nose on that one coming off the stove.