I was beginning to despair of getting any morel mushrooms this year when, the other day just before lunch, I got an email from Pendleton's, subject line: "We have morels!" I anxiously counted down the hours until the end of the day, and was able to just barely make it before they closed.....
Aren't they awesome? Aren't they weird? Aren't they beautiful?!!!
As I drove home with my sack o'morels on the passenger seat, I just had to pull one out and touch it. Their little spongy tops are the perfect study of textures--bumpy but smooth, crumbly but spongy. I put a mushroom up to my nose and deeply inhaled. (Yes, I huff mushrooms.) Initially I couldn't place it, but I finally decided they smell kind of like dirt. But the good kind of dirt--like, all-freshly-turned-over and just-mixed-with-compost and ready-for-growing-things dirt.
What happened to these little gods of mushrooms? Well, this year I decided to go the traditional route and bread and fry them. I soaked the mushrooms in salty water for a few hours to kill any critters that might be hanging out inside. Then I drained them, rinsed them, and cut them in half. Next, they got a dip in lightly beaten egg. Then, a dip in panko bread crumbs mixed with a little salt, pepper, fresh thyme, and just a little bit of dried sage. Last, they went into a frying pan with a butter and oil combo (don't be stingy here). The result?
They look like Chicken McNuggets! As Sweet Husband and I dug in, he joked that we might even be able to get Cutie Niece--currently in the phase of her life where she lives for McNuggets--to try one...if we didn't tell her it was fungus.
We had our "Morel McNuggets" with some tomato sauce
for dipping. A half a pound of shroomies made plenty for dinner for two. And holy-wow were they good! I've decided that morels are the exotic cousin of the mushroom family. They resemble their less exciting relatives, but they're just so much more intense and interesting. While they're a little expensive to eat all the time, their limited season makes them a great once or twice a year treat. Yummy!