Morels for me are the great harbinger of spring, the first blessed event of the year. Nearly impossible to cultivate, highly prized for their unique flavor profile, and different in structure than traditional fungi, morels have a hollow cylindrical body and a finely honeycombed cap that can be blond, white-tipped, black, or coniferous, and in some fields, they grow to be 8-inches tall. I’ve seen these giants on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and I almost had a heart attack.
My home in St Anthony Park has morels growing in the backyard, along the stump and root ridges of an old oak tree. Last year was a perfect year for morels. They bloomed all at once, after a particularly damp few days. I stumbled across fifty or so of them quite by accident, while weeding with my wife in the flower garden.
Once sure of their species (some false morels can be unpleasant to eat), we checked them for mites by splitting open a few. The rest we shook free of dirt and wiped with a damp rag. I hate washing mushrooms and would rather eat some black earth than sacrifice any of the morel’s subtle flavors. Basket in hand, we rushed to my best friend’s house and cooked them, standing in his kitchen, smiling contentedly, and not saying a word.
Morels can be found right now in farmers’ markets, from your friendly neighborhood forager, at local markets, and from Fresh and Wild, 800-222-5578, via mail order.
Sautéed Morels on Toast
2lb. fresh morels, sliced in half lengthwise
2 T. unsalted butter
2 T. minced shallots
1 T. minced flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup white wine
4 oz. heavy cream (I like Cedar Summit Farms best)
Sea salt to taste
2 T. thinly sliced or minced chives
4 slices fresh artisan bread, toasted and halved
Wipe morels clean with damp rag. In large sauté pan over high heat, add butter. When melted and foaming, add shallots and parsley. Stir briefly and add morels. Toss a few times and lower heat to medium. Sauté until cooked through and aromatic, roughly 3-4 minutes. Add wine, let evaporate almost all the way, and add cream, bringing to a simmer. This will happen quickly. Toss, season with sea salt and chives, and divide onto plates, pouring over toast. Serves 4.