Morels mushrooms (Morchella esculenta) are wild mushrooms appear in late spring, in orchards and woods, under hedgerows or on open wasteland. In the United States, they are found in the Midwest Northern states, such as Michigan and Wisconsin. They are available for a short time in the spring- and grow naturally in the wild. The mushrooms, about 1-3 inches across, have a distinctive appearance. The head is oval to conical, yellowish-brown in color in color, and deep ridges which give a honeycomb-like appearance. The stem is about 1 inch thick, scurfy white and hollow. The flavor of morels is very earthy, with nutty overtones. The texture is a bit spongy. They have a very distinct taste and texture. They are very savory and umami.
Morels are highly prized for their rich, earthy flavor, and also because their caps are hollow, which allows them to be stuffed. Dried morels are very flavorful, and they're an excellent substitute for fresh in sauces and stews. Dried morels are more readily available usually since they are not as perishable. One pound fresh morels = 2 - 3 ounces dried. They should be reconstituted in hot water or stock before cooking. The liquid or “tea” from reconstituting should also be used, as it gives great depth to dishes.
Dried morels can be pulverized in a coffee grinder or food processor to make a powder for dusting and seasoning meats too. Fresh morels should be soaked briefly in water to remove the dirt and dust caught in the honeycomb style cap. They are spongy so it is real easy to squeeze out the water and place on paper towels to dry. Morels usually carry a hefty price tag as well.
Care must be taken to avoid the "False Morel" (Gyromitra esculenta) - It is deadly toxic.
(False morels have fibers that run through the cap; where as true morels are hollow on the inside)
THIS IS A FALSE MOREL MUSHROOM! IT IS TOXIC! DO NOT CONSUME!!!
Morels taste good simply tossed in flour, then fried quickly in butter. They do well with meats, such as chicken, veal, or filet mignon. They are good with green beans and creamy rice dishes such as risottos. Madeira Wines and anything with cream or butter will suite the rich taste of a morel. Anything that you enjoy mushrooms with will taste good with a morel!!
True Morel Pictures courtesy of Richard Denlinger
False Morel Picture found on http://lilibees.hubpages.com/hub/Where-to-hunt-Morel-Mushrooms-in-Montana
© 2012 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger All rights reserved
Cite me: Denlinger, J. (2012, May 10). Morels. Retrieved from: FloridaChef.net