Yes, rain and warm temps means Morels are popping up everywhere. Last weekend, I spent hours in the woods hunting these priceless gems and was handsomely rewarded! Not really at all. My mom bought them from a roadside stand in a town of about 20 people and gave me a pound. Thanks, Mom!
Frying up a batch of Morels seem to be the most “traditional” way to do them, but I think they work well in so many ways. Below is a recipe for fried Morels and also a Morel and Asparagus Risotto. Both can look like a lot of work, but neither really are. A little time consuming maybe, but not difficult to actually execute.
- 1/2 pound Morel mushrooms, halved, soaked in salt water, and rinsed and drained well
- 1 and 3/4 cups flour
- 1/4 cup cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon pepper
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- veggie oil for frying
Mix flour, cornmeal, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper until all combined.
Whisk eggs and milk until combined well.
Pour veggie oil into wide, somewhat shallow frying pan. You want enough oil so that it is about 1/2 inch deep. Heat on medium heat.
Set up sheet pan with some paper towels layered into it to drain mushrooms when they come out of frying pan.
Set up breading station – seasoned flour and egg wash both (seperately) in shallow containers plus a plate or sheet pan to place breaded mushrooms.
To bread, lightly dredge mushrooms in flour. Shake off excess flour. Dip in egg wash to coat. Dredge again in seasoned flour thoroughly enough so that it has a nice coating. Continue until all mushrooms have been breaded.
Test oil to make sure it is hot enough. To do so, place one small mushroom in pan to make sure it starts sizzling and frying up. If it doesn’t, increase heat. If it seems to have too much of a sizzle – as if it will burn up too quickly – turn it down.
If temp is correct, start adding mushrooms to pan to fry. Add gently and be careful so as not to splash hot grease on you. (Hot grease on skin equals lots of cursing.) Do not overcrowd the pan as that can decrease the temp of the oil too much and the mushrooms will not brown up nicely and instead they will be a soggy, greasy mess.
Fry mushrooms about 3 minutes per side, or until a nice deep brown crust has formed. Transfer with tongs to paper lined pan and season lightly with salt.
Though most people would say eating mushrooms with ketchup is the most wrong thing you could possibly do with them, I ate mine with my homemade ketchup and thought it was the best thing ever.
Morel Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto
- 1 shallot or 1/2 of one small white onion, finely diced
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup plus another 1/2 cup Cream Sherry
- Lots of Chicken (or beef or veggie stock – whatever you prefer) – at least 4-6 cups, warmed on medium in sauce pot
- 1/2 pound Morel mushrooms, halved, soaked in salt water, rinsed and drained well
- 1 bunch Asparagus, hard ends trimmed off
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano
Blanch asparagus in a pot of salted boiling water for about 3 minutes or until bright green. Drain and shock asparagus in ice water to stop cooking. Drain and cut asparagus pieces into thirds and set aside.
Heat large pan on medium heat and add about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add shallot and sweat about 3 minutes. Add rice and continue to cook another couple of minutes, or until rice starts to look a little bit “toasted”. Add cream sherry and reduce until almost gone. (Normally I would have used white wine, but I did not have any, and I thought the sherry would complement the mushrooms well.)
Start adding broth to rice, about a 1/2 cup at a time. Add first 1/2 cup to rice and slowly stir in. Continue stirring rice until all the broth has been absorbed. As soon as the rice starts looking just a bit dry, add another 1/2 cup or so of broth.
Though you do not have to literally stir constantly as some risotto recipes call for, you do need to be pretty vigilant with your stirring. Continually stirring helps to create the creamy texture that you want in a risotto.
After several broth additions, start to taste your ristto. You want to season the risotto as you go along – not just right at the beginning or right at the end. So, keep tasting to know where you are with seasoning and also to taste the doneness of the rice. Once the rice has reached the proper consistency, stir in the butter. Once the butter has melted in, add the cheese. Taste again for any last seasoning.
To make the mushrooms, add a saute pan over medium to medium high heat. Add about 1 plus tablespoons olive oil and let heat up. Add mushrooms and season. Let cook about 2 minutes per side. Add asparagus. Add cream sherry and let reduce down to almost gone. Reduce heat to low and slowly work in the last tablespoon of butter. Taste for seasoning. (Depending on size of your pan and mushrooms, you may need to make mushroom/asparagus mixture in 2 batches. If you do just dump first batch into a bowl, make second batch, and then combine.)
To finish, place a large spoonful of risotto on plate and top with big spoonful of mushroom asparagus mix. Top with a bit of grated Parmesan cheese.