Morels (morel mushrooms) are wild mushrooms that come in any color from cream to gray to brown to almost black. They look like little spongy cones and contain the most remarkably wild and forest-y flavor. Morels are found in the spring most places and into summer in cooler climates. Look for them in the wild with an experienced guide, or at farmers markets and specialty grocery stores.
A fabulous way to cook morels is to saute them in butter and sprinkle them with salt. Small morels can be cooked whole, larger morels can be halved, quartered, or chopped as you like. Like many wild mushrooms, morels contain some amount of toxins. Don't panic, the toxins in morels aren't deadly, but if eaten raw or undercooked, morels can cause an upset stomach. Proper cooking for 15 to 20 minutes gets rid of these nausea-inducing toxins.
This recipe is as much a method as a recipe, so don't worry too much about the amounts. Use enough butter to coat the pan, use a pan wide enough to hold the mushrooms in a single layer, and you'll be fine playing around with specific amounts.
- 1/2 pound fresh morel mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Sea salt
- Their unique structure means morels require a thorough washing (which is something to be avoided with most mushrooms): Fill a large bowl with cool water. Add the morels and quickly swish them around to draw out any grit. Lift the morels out of the water, and pat them dry. Be sure to lift the mushrooms out of the water and not dump everything into a colander—that will just put the dirt that rinsed off of them back on the morels!
- Heat a large frying pan or saute pan over medium heat. Add the butter. Once the butter is melted and stopped foaming, add the morels. To cook morels without stewing them, cook only as many morels as will fit in the pan you have in a single layer; if you have a lot of morels, cook them in batches.
- Cook, stirring until the morels release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Continue cooking, adjusting the heat to maintain a light sizzle of the mushrooms, until the morels are cooked through and the liquid has evaporated about 10 minutes.
- Transfer the morels to a plate or serving platter and sprinkle with sea salt to taste. Serve hot or warm.
Morels have such a unique and a rather delicate flavor, there is a strong case to be made keep them plain. That said, there are some simple additions that are also worth trying. For creamier morels, you may want to add 1/4 cup heavy cream and/or a splash of dry sherry after the morels release their liquid and cook them in it to create a bit more of a sauce. When cooked this way, the resulting morels are particularly delicious served on buttered, toasted baguette slices.