For many, Morels are a favorite part of spring. I am no different, even though I have openly admitted that Morels are not my favorite mushroom I still find myself drawn out into the woods to find them. I think it has more to do with me proving something to myself about my own abilities than it does with really loving morels. Don't get me wrong, Morels are tasty and I enjoy eating them but in the grand scheme of mushrooms they are probably my third or fourth favorite mushroom. This year has been an odd year for Morels, usually we are out in the woods in late April or early May finding early Morels. This year we were still getting snow in the beginning of May so it put the Morels back a few weeks. Here it is the beginning of June and I am just now finding them.
On my first outing for morels a couple of weeks ago I got skunked and didn't find a single mushroom. I found plenty of ramps and some nettles but no mushrooms. This last weekend I took my daughter out with me and walked through a couple of different wildlife management areas. The first place we went didn't produce any Morels, but I know where I am going next year for Fiddle heads. While out in the woods we did get to see some deer and Eleanor was quiet enough that we were able to sneak up to about 40 yards aways from them. She thought that was pretty cool, and so did I.
In the second spot we went to we didn't make it 20 yards into the woods before I saw the first Morel. I showed Ellie what it was and told her that this was what we were looking for and she started looking all around us saying, there's one and there's one and before I knew it we had found about 40 morels all in an area no bigger than my front yard. She was pointing them out as fast as I could pick them, the excitement in her voice was intoxicating and before I knew it I was screaming and yelling right along with her. After we filled the bag she couldn't wait to get home and eat them. So we left right away and went home to prepare dinner.
I had ramps in the fridge already so I had a pretty good idea from the beginning what I was going to do when I got home. My whole family loves risotto so I figured I would make a Ramp and Morel risotto. When I told my wife what we were going to have she informed me that the neighbors and some other friends were coming for dinner. Luckily Ellie and I picked plenty of morels to make enough for everyone.
Ramp and Morel Risotto
1/2 cup chopped Morels
1/2 cup diced ramps (stems and bulbs reserving the leaves for later)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup white wine (I used crispin's cider blanc and it was fantastic)
6-8 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound morels cut in half length wise
reserved ramp leaves roughly chopped
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
saute the ramp leaves and morel halves in butter and olive oil and season to taste then set aside.
To make the risotto heat the olive oil and butter over medium high heat until melted and hot, add the diced ramps and chopped morels and saute for 3-4 minutes until the ramps are soft. Add the rice and stir for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the wine and stir until the wine is almost completely absorbed. Add the chicken stock one cup at a time and stir until absorbed before adding the next cup of stock. Taste the risotto as you cook until the rice reaches your desired texture. When it reaches the desired texture add 1 tablespoon of butter and the Parmesan and stir until combined then add the ramp and morel mixture and stir to incorporate.