Ah, the first signs of spring. Warm days, chilly mornings, cool nights, green grass, trees starting to bloom and of course mushrooms! Okay, most people don’t associate that last one with the changing of the season but for a few of us, specifically hunter gatherers, definitely do. To them there is hardly anything finer.
I hadn’t heard of Morels until about 11 years ago. A friend of mine told me about these secret shrooms that his dad would hunt for. I of course had conjured up visions of hippies, psychedelic colors and of course Janice Joplin (because let’s face it, you need drugs to enjoy that voice). However, this model didn’t describe his father at all. He was a small-town guy who worked in the oil field – okay that doesn’t totally eliminate the possibility but trust me – he wasn’t the type. Nonetheless I insisted that he get me some of these shrooms and quiz him on where and how I could find them. He delivered on both accounts. As I stared at these odd-looking morsels, I was definitely leery. Aside from game meat, I had never cooked with something picked in the wild. So, I did what any other adventurous type would do, I whipped up a few recipes. We fried a few battered in corn meal which was okay; flour would have been better. I then suggested we sauté the rest in butter and wine and that was the psychosis hit. I went all hypnotic (figuratively speaking of course) on shrooms, shrooms, I must have more shrooms!
Despite this glorious event it was sometime later before I found my first shrooms. It wasn’t for a lack of searching, I had an idea of where I could find them, I was just unsure of timing. Years later I stumbled onto an article (Tulsa World) that suggested using the blooming of Red Bud trees as a sign. Essentially, when you see the pink buds swelling on the limbs, it’s getting close and when they just start to bloom its go time! I applied this theory and returned to the same haunt that I had scoured time and time before and low and behold, I had my first Morels! Now I am not certain, if it’s when they bud, bloom or what so we just used it a as a sign to get our shit together and go! Over the last 6 years applying this theory has done us pretty right leading us to successful shroom hunts with 66% accuracy (success being deemed as finding enough to create 1 or 2 meals). We aren’t finding them in hoards which means I could have the timing wrong, but it appears that we have it down pretty good. There are of course more scientific methods involving ground temperature, etc. but I’ll leave it to you to go down that rabbit hole.
Enough of this jibberish you say, tell me how to cook these glorious shrooms! I recommend you keep the ingredients to a minimum so that you enjoy the taste of the morels but will add some recommendations should you want to spice it up. Lastly, without droning on, if you do not intend to eat the pasta by itself you can serve it with some lightly breaded pan-fried fish, chicken or schnitzel (turkey, chicken, pork) served with lemon wedges (squeeze a little lemon on the meats, and maybe even on the pasta if you like). While I wouldn’t deter you from serving with red meat, the intent is for the mushrooms to be the centerpiece and I find red meat overpowering. But hey, go wild, you do you man! So without further ado, here’s my simple pasta dish:
- ½- 1 Stick of Butter (adjust to your liking).
- 2-3 cups of Morel Mushrooms sliced length ways and cleaned
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Bow tie pasta
- Shredded Parmesan Cheese
- Parsley for garnish (optional)
- Prepare Pasta according to the package instructions
- Add butter to skillet, turn to Medium/Medium high heat and melt butter.
- Add Morels and sauté until tender * I will sometimes add a splash of stock (chicken or vegetable) as opposed to adding more butter if I would like a little more liquid.
- Remove from heat and toss with pasta adding in pasta until proportion appears correct.
- Salt and pepper to taste and top with Parmesan and Parsley.
- Serve with meat of your choice. Pictured with Pan Fried Striper Filet.