Morel Reflections…. fueled with passion!

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Why this Morel passion? I was always adventuresome, always not quite mainstream (in lots of ways) – my food tastes and experiences were fueled throughout my childhood – not guided by parental modeling or instruction, but by parental exposure. My Midwestern, potato chip company owner father who ate nothing but ground sirloin and a plain steak, and my New York, Mahattanite mother who had far more an adventuresome palate, but no particular interest in preparation of anything, including daily meals, knew early on my experience needed to be different. And that, most definitely was provided. They took me for meals everywhere, especially fine dining in New York and any other city we traveled to – they watched as I consumed Peanut Stuffed Lobster at the old Clam Shop in Detroit, as my father gasped in disbelief. But, the point is, they did it. They provided the canvas…and how grateful I am to those parents that put me first in so many ways.

As a child I always wanted the “weirdest” thing on the menu – wild boar, absolutely. Wild mushrooms, all the better. Was it always the most expensive? Not necessarily, but sometimes. Key for me, the experience. That food behavior hasn’t changed much today. I still seek out the unusual…perhaps being a food writer and cookbook author has something to do with that!

Let me introduce you to the beginning of my true love affair with morels….
While eating morels from time to time, in the 1990’s I met Joe Breidenstein from Walloon Lake, Michigan – a bright, tender, and generous man that was passionate about Morels. He developed morel weekend outings, while promoting Michigan, local woodsy finds, and a bevy of mushroom specialists as friends and compadres, I would go up North during spring and fall and do mushroom cooking for his guests. Even when I moved to Illinois for five years, Joe continued to use my recipes for his weekends. Joe became a close and treasured friend – a special friendship that lasted until his death in 2009. I loved Joe, I loved his passion, and I loved morels.

All of this personal exuberance for morels led to my actually writing a book about cooking them (not finding them) and my talented artist husband, David McCall Johnston, illustrating that book with 25 original paintings. My book is called The Art of Cooking Morels and you can find it on Amazon or at local bookshops (even Wal-Mart is carrying it!).

Spring arrives and I almost don’t think of anything else…well maybe — fiddleheads and ramps too – they are truly the spring trifecta!

I can’t wait to get out in the woods, go up to Boyne for the Morel Festival, and hunt anywhere I can find – that doesn’t say NO TRESSPASSING. This year it will also be Jonesboro, Illinois too, for their festival. I wish I could just do a major road-trip all through the spring and hunt, hunt, hunt. And of course, make personal appearances with my book. This year I will also be doing a cooking class after the “Taste of Morels” at the Boyne Festival in May. Check out their website!

When talking about morels, the prized fungi, we can’t ignore the taste only specific to them…woodsy, intense, and meaty – enthralling.
They have a fabulous texture for sauces and of course, butter….
BUT MUST BE COOKED BEFORE CONSUMPTION – THEY ARE TOXIC WHEN RAW.

Hunting for morels is serious business on multiple levels – needed clothing and accessories: sturdy hiking boots, long sleeves, socks on feet, a mesh bag to hold your haul (many folks use an onion bag), a small sharp knife for harvesting the fungi and good bug spray for parts of your body not covered.

When ready to deal with your hopeful haul…make sure there are no lingering critters (sometimes bugs make apartments in them!) I use a designated cosmetic brush to brush them out – and brush them delicately!

Many foragers will tell you to just sauté the morels in butter – it’s fine – but there is a plethora of ideas and options for them (my book has about 100)

Here are some interesting Morel ideas:

Cheese Ravioli with Morel Cream Sauce, Duck and Morel Tostadas, Seafood Stew with Morels, Duck Breasts topped with Sautéed Morels, Ebelskivers filled with Morels, Omelets filled or topped with Morels, Ramps and Fiddleheads, Stewed Rabbit and Morels on a Bed of Farro, and Crab and Morel Salad Stuffed Ancient Peppers, to name just a few!

Get those creative juices flowing, get out in the woods…or if desperate, get some dried and reconstitute them!!

Make your own Morel Memories and reflect…

Morels Glorious Morels....

Duck Breasts with Giant Saute of Morel Mushrooms

Duck Breasts with Giant Saute of Morel Mushrooms

Cheese Ravioli with Morel Fiddlehead and Ramp Cream Sauce

Cheese Ravioli with Morel Fiddlehead and Ramp Cream Sauce

Elilskivers Stuffed with Sauteed Morels

Elilskivers Stuffed with Sauteed Morels

Morel and Duck Tostada

Morel and Duck Tostada

Crab and Morel Salad stuffed in an Ancient Fresh Red Pepper

Crab and Morel Salad stuffed in an Ancient Fresh Red Pepper

Stewed Rabbit and Morels on a Bed of Farro

Stewed Rabbit and Morels on a Bed of Farro

2 Comments

  1. John Miller says:

    Do you have recipe for the clam shop peanut stuffed lobster?I ate there with my dad great lobster. Been looking for recipe for years.

    • RMJ says:

      Johns – I don’t have the recipe…sure wish I did!! Still remember how much I loved it as a kid.

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