While morels don’t quite have the rock star reputation of truffles, wild origins lend morels a mysterious, elusive quality. After learning about how fickle they are in terms of where they grow, and the related excitement that ripples through the mycological community at the start of spring (aka morel season), I had to wonder if they could possibly live up to the hype. We finally picked up a basket from Mo Na one weekend and set to find out.
The paper bag the morels came in expressed explicit instructions to wash the product, being that the mushrooms are wild, and could be harbouring any number of organisms. So – like most other vegetables that require a thorough bath, I decided to soak the morels.
Of course, after leaving them in the water for a few minutes, I realized this was the wrong move. The morels took in water like sponges! I literally had to wring them out before cooking. As Mack always says, I should have consulted the Google.
Anyway, I decided to prepare them two ways – the first was to simply sauté them in butter (as Martin, President of the Alberta Mycological Society had recommended), and the second was in an asparagus and morel soup.
I roughly chopped a handful of morels (and some that still retained water – mini mushroom bombs, they were – nothing says learning like the hard way, right?), and threw them in a pan of melted butter. A few minutes later, our small bowls of cooked gems in front of us, we expected to be blown away. Not surprisingly, as with other instances where the bar is set too high, we weren’t. The waterlogged morels had lost some of their inherent spring, but save for tasting like other members of the fungi family, neither Mack or I could discern any real distinct flavour worthy of fervour.
We did better with the asparagus and morel soup, though. An Eric Akis recipe (I am partial to his seasonal focus), the dish called for pureed asparagus (we used the last of our Edgar Farms bunch), and chopped morels that were simmered in chicken stock for additional flavour. Though the potato used to thicken the soup was a little too prominent for my taste, I loved the green colouring of the broth, and the added texture and slightly woody essence of the morels.
Asparagus and morel soup
Will we buy morels again? Perhaps, but I’m starting to think that morels are more about the thrill of the hunt – I’m sure they taste better if you foraged them for yourself.