By Tom Nauman
A reader has suggested that I devote a column or two to recipes. I must admit that kitchen work is not my strong suit, but here goes.
There's a ritual in the Nauman household for cooking morels and it's actually three recipes used in succession. We first slice them in half lengthwise and rinse them. If there are insects present, we soak the morels is lightly salted water for ten minutes, then rinse them thoroughly again. They are then placed on a paper towel to drain the excess water.
Recipe one begins with melting butter (start with about a fourth of a cup then add more as needed) in a skillet on medium heat. Add some of the morels in a single layer. I can't give exact measurements or times because I don't use them. Everything about the ritual is done from experience. Let the morels brown slightly on one side. Add butter as needed. This should take three to five minutes depending on the heat. Turn them over and repeat for other side. They are then ready to consume.
After the morels are out of the skillet you may begin recipe two. Use the same skillet and melted butter. If you've skipped recipe one you will need to melt the butter is a skillet. Take some of the morels that have been draining on the paper towel, dip them in milk and then flour. Place them in the frying pan and cook them as in recipe one except they will take a little longer to cook - roughly an extra minute or two per side. A variation of this recipe uses an egg/milk mixture and cracker crumbs instead of flour. You may want to experiment to please your own taste buds.
The above two recipes are pretty basic and probably 95 per cent of mushroom hunters know them well. Recipe three may begin immediately after recipe two or one and is a real treat. Use the same skillet and butter. Remember to add butter as needed. Cut or chop the morels into pieces roughly one-half to three quarters of an inch in size and place them in the skillet. Let the pieces cook for a minute or two then add flour and milk. Start with about a fourth of a cup of flour and a half cup of milk. Stir the mixture and add more flour or milk as needed to get the consistency of gravy. While the morels finish cooking place some bread in the toaster. Serve the morels and gravy over the toast. You won't be disappointed.
If you begin with dehydrated morels, place them in room temperature water for four hours. Use two cups of water per ounce of dehydrated morels. The water will turn brown. This is normal. You may save the water for soup or broth. Place the morels on a paper towel to drain the excess water.
Next month's article will be about the seventh annual Illinois State Morel Mushroom Hunting Championship.
Remember, whenever you want to try eating a mushroom you're not familiar with, check it in at least two field guides. If they say it's edible, try just a nibble, wait 24 hours, and if there are no ill effects then consume larger amounts. All past articles are available http://www.morelmania.com/5Mushrooms/index.html. Please feel free to contact us with questions or comments. Especially if you have ideas or suggestions for future columns: Tom and Vicky Nauman, Morel Mania, RR1 - Box 42, Magnolia, IL 61336, Phone 309-364-3319, Fax 309-364-2960, Business Hours: 7:00 am. to 7:00 pm. CST. Monday through Saturday. Tom@MorelMania.com.