Foraging: They came in the night

Posted on May 1, 2011

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Morel Magic! by WithinSeason

We found these morels …. in a secret spot.  Hope there’s a second round in our future.  Last week’s tremendous thunderstorm and warm(er) weather probably had a lot to do with our fantastic luck.  I’m doing a rain dance. Right. Now.

After we struck the jack pot with our first-ever morel find, we had some work to do.

First, we had to identify our prey. About a year ago we purchased a copy of a local mushrooming book called Field Guide to the Wild Mushrooms of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic by Bill Russell. He is also very nice, and will regularly meet with you to tell you how poisonous your find is.  This is only convenient if you live close by, but it also goes to show that the best way to identify a mushroom is by consulting a knowledgeable person in your area.

This guide book gets tossed in the day-pack for short hikes, and it is fun to spend time looking around for interesting mushrooms as you walk.  (And promotes strolling while preventing the inadvertent march.)  Even so, the thought of finding and accurately identifying an edible mushroom seemed a bit far-fetched when we got this tome.  But hey, morels don’t knock twice!  We also had a key confidence boost with a positive id from a local mushroomer who didn’t begrudge me the haul since he had his own very productive secret spot.  We still double checked with the guide back at the house, and found out that the false morels have pretty reasonable identifying features involving whether the cap is attached to the stem or not.  Check around on the web for some more info, though, because I am a total novice!

[Note:  In retrospect, these mushrooms were delicious and did not make us sick.  So there.]

Finally, with a great haul of mushrooms comes great gustability.  An improvised breakfast with morels sauteed in butter atop eggs was perfect.  Simple, maximum flavor profile.  A great way to eat them and get acquainted with their flavor.  Fresh chives freshened the dish up, too.

With supper, we wanted to showcase the mushrooms, but also round out a nice hearty spring meal.  Steaks or pork chops?  We usually go with beef, but this time went for the unusual combination:

A Morel Menu

Seared pork chops with a creamy, savory mushroom sauce

Excellent baked potatoes, with crispy salted crust

Turbo-fresh spring green salad

Pair this with a nice full-bodied red wine. Usually we’d opt for a Bordeaux (French) or a Bonarda (Italian), as both have the sophistication and depth to pair really well with mushrooms and 4-legged meat.  These regions produce really good $10-$14 a bottle offerings consistently.  This time we went for the stack option at the local store, and had a bottle from Mendoza, Argentina that was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.  The bottle has been recycled already, but we’ll try and update with the name soon since it was really good and a perfect match!

It turned out to be a great meal to celebrate a lovely gift from the mud!

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Posted in: garden