5 Ways to Cook Morel Mushrooms (If You're Lucky Enough to Find Some)
The first bite I ever took of these unique mushrooms was in a risotto. A bed of lusciously creamy arborio rice came blanketed in sautéed local mushrooms, including the stand-out morels. Each bite was better than the last. From that moment on, I kept my eyes peeled for more morels, both on menus and in the wild.
Luckily, I spotted them soon after in another dish. This time, the mushrooms topped ricotta-slathered toast, which came complete with nature's best condiment: a runny egg yolk. Perhaps I've been spoiled by a couple of creations that would have been delicious nonetheless, but what made the dishes truly memorable were the morels.
These mushrooms are particularly coveted because they are one of the few edible items we savor that aren't farmed or raised; they're only grown and gathered in their native, wild habitat. Morels are fairly rare (hence the fierce competition come mushroom hunting season) and only pop up in specific weather conditions for just a couple months each spring. Their scarcity is a big reason morels sell for such top dollar (one pound can sell for anywhere between $20 and $100!).
Unlike some other varieties of mushrooms that can err on the slimy side in certain recipes, morels have a nutty, toasted flavor and meaty texture that stands up beautifully once cooked.
So how do you cook these treasures, if you're lucky enough to find some? First (and very importantly), give 'em a good clean, then consider one of these delicious methods for cooking morel mushrooms.
How to Cook Morel Mushrooms
Once your morels are sufficiently cleaned (thoroughly rinsed in cold water then briefly soaked in lightly salted water), you're ready to start cooking.
Seemingly the most popular way to cook morel mushrooms is by frying. Here's how to fry morels to enjoy right out of the pan or added to burgers and other dishes you'd add your usual fried mushrooms to.
- Preheat the skillet over medium heat and melt a good chunk of butter. The amount you'll need depends on how many mushrooms you're cooking. You can always add more butter as you cook, if needed.
- Prep your coating or breading. Some folks swear by just a bit of flour, others seasoned bread crumbs. I'm a fan of crushed crackers because they're already seasoned (even if just with salt). Crush crackers in a zip-top bag and dump into a bowl.
- Crack a couple of eggs in a separate bowl and beat well.
- Coat cleaned morels in egg, then crackers, and pop them in that butter-coated skillet. Sauté about 5 minutes or until golden brown and crispy for pan-fried morels that will have everyone reaching for more.
Sautéeing is a splendid way to showcase morel mushrooms for pure morel flavor. For best results, cook in a dry skillet for 5 minutes in small batches (only what covers the skillet surface in a single layer), and turn a few times until golden brown and tender. Remove one batch, then replace with the next until you have all of the morels tender. Season as desired
For more flavor, follow directions in this Sautéed Mushroom Medley and return all the mushrooms back to the skillet and add equal parts butter and oil. Stir in some diced shallots and a dash of bourbon and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Put Morels on Pizza
Pretty much anything can be enjoyed in pizza form. Even dessert. This creative savory pie skips standard sausage and pepperoni, and instead calls for a full-on celebration of spring. Toss halved morels and diced asparagus in a skillet with shallots, fresh thyme, and a splash of white wine for a next-level pizza topping combo. Alongside the nutty gruyere cheese, the morels really shine.
To recreate that risotto at home, I've been playing around with this Mushroom Fricassee (aka creamy stewed sauce). Try it yourself: Sauté morels in walnut oil to echo the nutty qualities of the mushrooms (though, more common oils like canola will work just fine), then simmer to tender, bubbly perfection with Madeira cooking wine, whipping cream, chives, and rosemary.
Bake Morels in a Quiche or Savory Tart
In a quiche or a tart, morels make a delightful addition to any brunch menu. Cook the mushrooms in bacon drippings, then combine with eggs, bacon, green onions, thyme, and cheese to fill a flaky, buttery pastry crust. Use our wild mushroom tart as your inspiration.
I think these are the five best ways to cook morel mushrooms since they really allow the morels themselves to take centerstage. If you'd prefer to keep their flavor and texture a bit quieter, though, consider cooking morels in butter or olive oil and stuffing inside ravioli or blending them into mushroom patties for a meatless burger substitute.