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More butter than you’re comfortable using

April 23, 2012

We spent the better part of our afternoon today with our neighbors, roaming the woods of southeastern Minnesota and snacking on cheese and crackers while trout fishing at one of our state’s many beautiful parks. The goal was to forage and fish for our dinner. The grim reality is that we realized that, if left to our own devices, we would likely starve. Pictured below is our combined haul for the day.

That’s right. No asparagus. No ramps. No trout.  Only three glorious, highly sought after, elusive, delicious morel mushrooms. Lack of found food aside, the day was far from a total loss. It was a perfect spring day, and we thoroughly enjoyed spending time with each other.

Secondly, the excitement of finding the first (and second, and third) morel was huge. And the task of cutting them down took not one, not two, but three men.

It’s also so wonderful to see how much our son enjoys spending time outdoors. He got a fishing pole for Christmas, and was finally able to use it today, where he successfully hooked a bit of plant – which he thought was hilarious.

And now I must be honest with you. Yesterday, at the farmer’s market, I purchased asparagus. And morels. Did I do it because I knew today would not result in enough food to make a meal of? I plead the fifth. But tonight I tossed our foraging findings in a large bowl of salt water along with the morels I picked up yesterday, and then I cooked them in more butter than I’d ever feel comfortable using along with a few cloves of garlic, and we had ourselves a righteous feast.

The morel season is a short one, but it’s worth trying to get your hands on this particularly tasty fungus while you can. There’s all sorts of information online about foraging for your own (and I highly encourage you to do so), but if you try unsuccessfully or simply do not enjoy the outdoors they’re available at local farmer’s markets (and probably some specialty grocery stores) as well. They’re not cheap, because they’re next to impossible to propagate, which means that anyone who’s selling them spent some precious time hunting for them first. Their fragility makes them difficult to clean – it works best to simply slice them in half and soak them in salt water for an hour or two (I place a plate on top of the water to make sure the mushrooms stay completely submerged).

As my son was taking his seat at the table, I told him that I wanted him to try at least one of the morels. I braced myself, waiting for some serious push-back – mushrooms are highest on his list of, “won’t ever eat it, hate it, loath it,” foods. But instead, he cautiously picked up the smallest one he could find, put it into his mouth, carefully chewed it, and stated, “it tastes like meat. It’s kind of good.”

(Stunned. Silence.)

His description was spot-on, too. Morels, for those of you who haven’t had them before, are delicate and fragile, yet surprisingly meaty in taste and texture. Especially when gently sauteed with more butter than you’re comfortable using. After his initial assessment, my son proceeded to eat I-don’t-even-know-how-many-more buttery, garlicky, meaty morels. We sopped up the juices with some good italian bread and declared ourselves full and happy.

Morels with Butter and Garlic

  • 6 oz morel mushrooms, halved lengthwise (quartered if very large)
  • 4 tablespoons butter (preferably salted) (I know it sounds like a great deal of butter. That’s because it is. Just move past this point and I promise you’ll be happy you did.)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced

Soak mushrooms in a large bowl of salted water for one to two hours. It is helpful to plate a plate over the top of the water in order to ensure that the morels stay entirely submerged. Gently pat mushrooms dry.

Melt butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic and morels. Stir or toss gently to combine. Cook for 15 minutes, gently stirring and coating the mushrooms in butter and garlic.

Serve with good bread.

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