Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sautéed Morels

Shortly after our first attempt to cook ramps and morels turned into an Epic Fail, my friend Rachel graciously gave me a bunch of ramps and a brown paper bag filled with fresh morels. Yes, I have awesome friends.

After obsessively cleaning each nook and cranny of the honeycomb textured morels, I sautéed the mushrooms in a good amount of butter with ramps and garlic, seasoning with fresh thyme and flaky salt. I took a deep breath and prayed for the best. Or, at the very least, for no grit.


Just as we imagined, the nutty, earthy morels paired wonderfully well with the delicate ramps.  I suspect that the previous grit-laden adventure will be a mere hiccup in the memory of this beautiful marriage of Springtime treasures.

I served the sauteéed morels on crostini. I imagine they would make a great side dish or be delightful tossed with pasta. Shallots could easily be substituted for the ramps.

To be fair, these morels were certainly much less gritty than the previous batch. Nevertheless, I was very careful about cleaning the mushrooms.

I soaked the morels in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Rinsed thoroughly. Soaked the morels a second time in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Rinsed. Sliced in half and trimmed woody stems. Rinsed in hot water to clean insides, dewormed and de-gritted. Yes, there can be tiny worms inside of the bigger mushrooms. Rinsed again and spread on a paper towel. Finally the morels were clean!

Some mushroom enthusiasts warn that overly washing morels causes them to lose their flavor. I don't know about you, but I am willing to forgo some flavor in exchange for worm-free morels.

A final bit of advice: do not wash the morels until you are ready to use them, as they don't hold up well once washed.

Sautéed Morels
1/2 cup fresh morels, or 1/4 cup dried morels (see note if using dried)
1 clove of garlic, minced
4-5 ramps, bulbs thinly sliced or 1/2 shallot, minced
1.5 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tbsp butter
flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper

Thoroughly clean fresh morels, slice into quarters.

Heat a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add butter and when it foams, add ramp bulbs or shallots and garlic. Sauté until softened and slightly browned about 3-4 minutes.

Toss in the morels, avoid overcrowding them. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium.  Add thyme and season lightly with flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sauté another 5-7 minutes until morels are tender but crispy on the outside.

Serve on crostini. For tips on making crostini see this post on leek crostini.

Note: If using dried morels, bring 3 cups water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add dried morels. Remove from heat. Cover and let steep for 1 hour. Using a slotted spoon, transfer morels to bowl. Reserve soaking liquid. When adding morels to sauté pan, add reserved soaking liquid too, leaving any sediment behind. Increase heat to high to evaporate the liquid and cook mushrooms about 8 minutes.

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