Imagine you are in a forest, the silence only broken by the keen of a blue jay and the distant thrum of the majestic waterfalls just out of sight. The air is fresh and cold and heavy with pine. Each step is cushioned by a thick layer of duff. Your neck is stiff and your back is sore from walking hunched over but you don’t feel it. Your eyes are peeled for every variation in texture and color, constantly scanning and hunting for the elusive morel patch.
Ah, the life of mushroom hunter. Wiley, deceptive, vague and secretive, mushroom hunters are a strange breed. When they do find a great mushroom spot it is a wondrous thing and yet they are privately exultant.
Anna and her dear beau had the opportunity to go mushroom hunting in an undisclosed forest location and found a whopping six pounds of morel in a day and a half. Where? They’ll never tell and nor will I but we are pleased to share a few beautiful pictures you.
Morels are fascinating mushrooms. They look like honeycombed, dark monsters and so alien but when you search for them in the wild they transform into the perfect camouflaged black hole non-entity that our eye passes over then the stealthy morel chuckles it’s tinny laugh at tricking us once again.
We we had them dead to rights on the counter where there was no escape.
The deep earthy fragrance of the morel are like the aftershave of the forest. I kept leaning over the large basket and inhaling. these are the black morel, or Morchella elata.
My eyes popped when I saw the big daddy lurking in the basket….
And a little closer….
Meanwhile, wedged in the corner between the sink and the counter where the morel basket was perched was the cat, Red, hoping he could get a whiff of the mushrooms and a good chuck under the chin. Cats always seem to be in the most inconvenient spot when it’s within two hours of dinnertime, don’t they?
Anna started to prepare the mushrooms for dinner.
She had a six-cup bowl of water in the sink with about 1 1/2 tsp of sea salt dissolved into the water. The morel were sliced in half lengthwise and the ends were trimmed a bit. If any insects or bugs were inside the hollow mushroom then they were soaked briefly in the salt water.
The pristine morel halves were placed on the dehydrator.
It took about 24 hours for the mushrooms to become completely crunchy and dry, then they were safely stored in a jar for future risottos and sauces.
The plan for the evening was filet mignon with morel sauce, shoestring asparagus and mashed potatoes (my favorite). Anna used minced shallot, cooked until almost caramelized, and filled the frying pan with morel halves, then finished them with cream and chives.
The perfectly medium-rare filets of beef were sliced and laid out on a tray, and the morel sauce poured over the top.
We sat down to feast on this ultimate Spring treat, every bite of beef had a bite of morel to keep it happy.
It was a privilege to dine so sumptuously and we were a very merry crowd. The season for morel is brief and I do hope my friends foray out again for the magic morel!
if you would like to learn more about mushroom foraging, the Sonoma Mycological Society is a great resource. You should *never* eat a wild mushroom unless you are with an expert, trained forager.