I specifically remember the first time I had a morel mushroom. I was attending art school at Herron School of Art in Indianapolis way back in the late 90s. My friend, Jen, lived near Bloomington. One Spring, I went home with her for a weekend. Her mom served us fried morel mushrooms with pan gravy for breakfast one morning. I loved mushrooms, but was slightly skeptical of these brainy looking specimens. The flavor was awesome and the texture something I kept going back to while enjoying breakfast with my friend and her family. Jen’s mom passed away only a few week’s later in a car accident which Jen and her sister were also involved, but luckily survived. I will forever treasure that breakfast with Jen and her family.
Fast forward 15 years and Matt introduced the idea of going morel hunting. I knew people around this area had found morels, but it was nothing like Indiana or even the Yankton area. Around Pierre it seemed more like a an endless hunt to maybe get a few mushrooms. Definitely competition as so many people wanted to find these little gems, but so little space to find them. But we went anyway and we found….maybe five. But, we found five and we thoroughly enjoyed them for breakfast with asparagus, toast, and a fried egg.
Every Spring since then, we have attempted to find morels. And every Spring since then we’ve found merely a handful. Luckily a few of our friends pitied our sorrowful finds and gifted us with a couple more handfuls. Jess, thank you.
I expected this year would be the same. As it turned out, though, this year we would finally get lucky. We were only able to go out three days this Spring because we really needed to start tackling the garden, but we fully committed to those three days.
Day one, we headed out with our friend Chris to…..oh, sorry. Foraging for morels is like Fight Club. The first rule about morel hunting is you do not talk about morel hunting. The second rule about morel hunting is you DO NOT talk about morel hunting. So, we went foraging at a super secret location for morels.
Within the first 15 minutes, we’d found a few. Then, there was a lull. And then, we started finding them everywhere. Well, Chris and Matt started finding them everywhere. I had yet to find one on my own. Up to this point in my life, I’d always just been called over to see the morels before we harvested them.
I so badly wanted to find my own morels. And then it happened. I looked down and there they were. Just a couple, but they were my finds! Oh my gosh, finally!! And then it seemed I could spot them everywhere. Still not the mad genius that Matt is, but I can do it. This is what we ended up with after Day one.
Not a ton, but more than we’d lucked into before. And we made our favorite morel dish, sauteed asparagus and morels with toast and a fried egg.
So, the bug definitely had us. We decided to go out a couple days later with Chris’s wife, Lisa. This time, with a purpose. We were going to have a morel-based dinner that night and we needed to find a pretty decent amount. Nothing like pressure! We conquered.
That night we had an amazing dinner! The first course was influenced by the Jamón Ibérico con Champiñón y Espárragos a la Plancha (Iberico Ham with Grilled King Trumpet Mushrooms and Asparagus) from El Tapeo de Cervantes in Malaga, Spain. Our version was sauteed asparagus, morels, and crispy prosciutto. The bright Spring flavors of asparagus mixed with the earthy taste and meaty texture of morels paired amazingly well with the salty and intense flavor of the prosciutto.
In our second course, the morels ended up getting a bit lost in the dish. But, it was seriously fantastic and typing this I’m craving it again. We made a risotto using mushroom broth as the liquid. Crispy bacon, Chris’s smoked pork loin, blue cheese, and fresh chives finished off the dish. I can’t say enough about the smoked pork loin and the tangy blue cheese. I just can’t. Too good.
And then there was this. Roasted beef marrow bones topped with sauteed morels, served with a fresh arugula and Parmesan salad and garlic-rubbed baguette slices. I watched a show once where someone said “You don’t want to like marrow, but it’s so good.” I think it’s just the thought of what marrow is…bones. I look at it as using as much of the animal as possible, so it doesn’t go to waste. The marrow is unctuous and spreads like butter. Topped with the morels, it really was amazing. Plus, this was Chris and Lisa’s first marrow experience and I absolutely love introducing new foods to our friends. So, this was a bonus! We finished the night with one of Lisa’s amazing desserts, White Chocolate Crème Brûlée.
Day three ended up being the mother load. It was a great way to culminate the experience this Spring.
In order to enjoy these flavors later in the year, we decided to dehydrate them. After about five soakings in fresh, cool water they were ready for their multiple hour trip in the dehydrator.
And now we have these to enjoy in a few months. After looking at other posts from areas in South Dakota and crazy images from Missouri, it makes me want to take a trip next Spring to some of those locations. Until then, we really appreciate the bounty from Mother Earth. How lucky we are to forage these funky little mushrooms.