Morels and Foraging

Foraging for food has also fascinated me, the idea that I can go out into the woods, fields and streams around me and take home beautiful, delicious food get me excited.  Sadly in order to be good at it, like all things, you need to spend time doing it and time isn't something I have a lot of.  In the past I have had some luck in finding ramps, nettles and berries but have never had much success finding Morels.  Prior to this outing I had found a total of one morel mushroom in my life.  Part of my non success was that I didn't spend much time looking for morels, I would only look if I was out trout fishing or turkey hunting.  

The morel seems to be the undisputed king of foraged foods, everyone seems to have a favorite spot and everyone seems to love these oddly beautiful mushrooms.  I always here people say the same thing, "you just fry them up with a little garlic and butter and they are the best thing you'll ever eat".  This might be true, but it is basically true of all edible mushrooms.    

I feel that morels are like a really great movie that everyone has seen and won't quit raving about and then you finally see the movie and it doesn't live up to the hype that everybody has given it.  It was good but not as good as everybody made it out to be, that is how I feel about morels.  I think part of the allure of the morel is that there is a limited amount of time to enjoy them.  They are only available in the wild for a few weeks in the spring time and can cost as much as $50 a pound to buy, so people like to get out and look for them.  I have made an attempt every year to go out and find some but, like I said, haven't been very successful.

This year I was determined to find some morels so I spent some time researching where they grow and what to look for.  The extra reading paid off because this year I found quite a few more than I have in the past.   I have eaten morels in the past but have never been blown away by them.  I think that is because I have always eaten other people's morels and they are always cooked the same way, with butter and garlic.  Now that I had my own little supply I was going to be able to really see what they could do.

Like all mushrooms, Morels have a very earthy kind of nutty natural flavor but they also absorb the flavors around them quite well.  I didn't want to over do it with flavors and wanted the morel to stand out in a dish so I decided to brown some bacon in a pan and then saute the morels with asparagus and ramps in the bacon grease with a little salt and pepper and then some crumbled bacon bits.  I don't know if they tasted better because I found them or because they were cooked right but I was impressed by these mushrooms.  I wouldn't say I was blown away but I was certainly impressed.

The earthy nuttiness of the mushrooms held up with the ramps and asparagus and absorbed a little of the bacon flavor.  After eating them this way I felt like I needed to get back out in the woods before the season is over and find a few more.  Fortunately for me I have a week of vacation coming up and will have plenty of time.

Sauteed Morels, Ramps and Asparagus

1 pound morel mushrooms
1 pounds asparagus
1/2 pound ramp leaves
4 strips bacon ( fat reserved)
2 tablespoons dry vermouth
 salt and pepper to taste

In a large Pan saute the bacon until crisp,  removed bacon but leave the rendered fat.  Chop the ramp leaves, asparagus and morels in large pieces about 2 inch pieces.  starting with the asparagus, saute in the bacon fat for 2-3 minutes then add the morels and saute for 2-3 minutes more and add the ramps leaves.  cook for 3-5 minutes until all elements are done to your liking. Chop the bacon and add it then finish with the dry vermouth, salt and pepper to taste and enjoy.