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Marvelous Magical Fresh Morels | Sortachef

Marvelous Magical Fresh Morels

Some years ago while hiking with friends on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains, I came across a band of people wandering through the forest. In their billowy clothes and long hair, they looked a little like wood elves as they meandered off the trail among the trees, occasionally dropping to take something from among the pine duff on the forest floor. When a young man sporting a blond goatee and a pixie cap came near, I asked him what they were after.

‘Oh man, check out these mushrooms,’ he said, lifting his basket. There was sparkle in his fine eyes. ‘Morels. Soaked in cream and then sautéed, they’re just the best. In fact, they’re magical. Hey man, there’s one right now!’

Wild Northwest Morels ready for the pot

He bent down and cut a little pine cone shape from the pathway beside my boot. If he hadn’t noticed it, I would’ve walked right past. He handed the mushroom to me and disappeared as my friends gathered around.  

The rest of our hike, even under the weight of backpacks, became a fantastic game of hide-and-seek. It took a while to develop what we call our ‘mushroom eyes’ – that ability to pick out mushrooms from their setting, but by the time we got to our campsite some miles later, we’d found two or three pounds of the elusive critters. That night, we had succulent sliced morels heated in red sauce over dueling MSR stoves. We ate our spaghetti seated around a roaring campfire as a million stars came out to fill the sky overhead.

Now if you’re lucky enough to find morels in the wild, you’re in for a rare feast. They’re one of the most flavorful of mushrooms, and their texture is out of this world. If you do have to buy them, expect to pay a premium, but know that a little goes a long way. An ounce or two per person can change a meal from ordinary to stellar.

And as to soaking morels in cream? It’s a tried and true method that’s a bit too rich for me, so I compromise at 2% milk and then finish them in olive oil and butter. Tossed with pasta or as a topping for your favorite grilled meat, you can’t go wrong.

Here’s a great way to add a little magic to grilled salmon.

Grilled Salmon with Sautéed Morels

 

Makes 2 generous portions

4 ounces of fresh morels, cleaned with a brush

6 ounces of 2% milk

½ teaspoon of salt

1 Tablespoon each olive oil and butter

2 pieces of fresh wild salmon fillet, 6 ounces each

Paprika, herbs and salt and pepper to taste

Herbed rice and Swiss Chard for plating (optional)

 

Soak the morels: Clean the mushrooms of any dirt or pine needles using a brush, and trim the stalk end if necessary. In a 1 quart bowl, combine the milk and salt and then add the morels whole, pushing them down into the milk mixture. Let soak for at least one hour.

Prepare the grill and salmon: At least half an hour before grilling, get 25 briquettes of charcoal going in a small grill (I use a Smokey Joe from Weber). Brush salmon pieces with a little olive oil and sprinkle on paprika, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Cover lightly and let sit at room temperature while the coals heat up.

Make rice and Swiss Chard: Since salmon goes so well with rice, I recommend it as a bed for this dish. My guilty secret is that, to minimize the hassle, I often make the boxed Long Grain and Wild Rice and use only half the packet of seasoning. Hey, it’s simple! And, since Swiss Chard is fresh right now, you can sauté a little in butter and serve it on the side for a healthy and colorful addition.

Sauté the morels: Remove the morels from the milk and slice them into half-inch pieces. Heat a 10” frying pan over medium heat for a few minutes. Add oil and butter and sauté the mushrooms for 3 minutes, stirring once or twice to heat the pieces evenly. Do not overcook. The morels will be done when they are limp and just beginning to brown.

Grill the salmon: Spread the coals. Adjust the grill surface and let it heat up for a few minutes. Scrape the grill surface clean.

Put the salmon pieces face down with the flesh side to the heat. Grill for 4 minutes and then turn the pieces with a spatula to put the skin side toward the heat. Depending on thickness of the fillet and the heat of your coals, the salmon should be ready in 6 to 8 minutes.

The magical touch: Put some rice on each plate, surround with Swiss chard and arrange the salmon on the rice. Now top with the sautéed morels, and let the magic begin. Enjoy!

Fresh morels for sale at the Ferry Terminal Building in San Francisco

 

 

5 comments to Marvelous Magical Fresh Morels

  • What an intriguing dish! Looks delicious! :)

  • Yummy! What a gorgeous recipe. I have been mushroom hunting several times but I never run into morels. They are very delicate. Nice post, it makes me hungry for a second lunch.:-)

  • This sounds so good! I have not tasted morels, but I do love mushrooms so I’m pretty sure I’d love these, too.

  • How interesting these morels are. They look like a sea creature of sorts and prehistoric, but beautiful! I don’t think I’ve ever seen them before and I know I’ve never had the pleasure of tasting one. Thank you for sharing something new for me. That salmon looks gorgeous!

    I always enjoy your write ups…enjoyed your post about something magical/whimsical. I’m a huge Tolkien fan and anything that looks or sounds like it came from Middle Earth…piques my interest. ;)

    Have a great weekend!

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At Woodfiredkitchen.com, Sortachef takes you on adventures in the kitchen and beyond, with tales to suit. Many of his offerings are woodfired - a flaming good recipe for pizza, bread, or something different. All recipes are original and tasty. Enjoy!
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