Why It Works
- Sautéing in oil over high heat, instead of butter, allows mushrooms to brown without the risk of burning.
- A generous pat of butter added toward the end of cooking helps emulsify the stock or water into a rich, creamy sauce.
- Soy sauce adds umami depth, while lemon juice brightens the dish up.
Mushrooms, for the most part, make me think of autumn. Except the morel. Like asparagus, peas, ramps, and fiddleheads, morels are a harbinger of spring, and a welcome earthy counterpoint to the fresh, grassy flavors of those other vernal ingredients. Morels are also easy to prepare and cook, as long as you know a few key pieces of information.
Choosing and Cleaning Morels
As you'll find with a lot of mushrooms, the biggest risk with morels is that they soften and rot. Seek out morels that are fresh, firm, and dry—avoid ones that are either desiccated and shriveled or soft, wet, and spongy.
Large morels are more prone to sponginess, since they're often older and already starting to break down. Smaller morels, as you can see in the photo above, are generally a safer bet, though if you do find beautiful big ones, by all means, grab 'em.
Be sure to check your morels for critters like worms, which often set up residence in the little frilly nooks in the mushrooms' caps—the silky threads they excrete may look like white mold, but it's actually a sign you have some unwanted dinner guests. Morels are wild mushrooms, so it's common to find bugs on or in them. There's no reason to avoid morels with worms (though heavily infested mushrooms might be more trouble than they're worth), as long as you take the time to pick those little visitors out.
You should also inspect the morels for dirt and debris, cleaning them off with a dry pastry brush.
Trimming Morels for Cooking
Start by slicing off the tough/dirty end portion of each stem.
Then slice the morels in half lengthwise. You'll notice that they're hollow inside. I usually leave them halved, though you're free to quarter them lengthwise, or divide them even more if they're particularly large.
To cook morels, start by searing them in oil over high heat to brown them, just as you would other mushrooms.
The morels will soften and brown. Some recipes have you cook morels from start to finish in butter, but we find that the butter will burn before the morels are sufficiently browned. It's better to brown the mushrooms first, saving the butter for the end.
Then add minced onion, shallots, and/or garlic, lowering the heat to prevent scorching. (If you add these before browning the mushrooms, you risk burning them as the mushrooms sear.)
Add a very generous pat of butter, which will melt and soak into all the little crevices in the morel caps.
I like to add a splash of soy sauce, which pumps up the umami depth, along with some lemon juice, to brighten the whole thing up. A little stock or water helps emulsify the butter into a creamy, mushroom-y sauce that's just thick enough to both coat and soak into the morels.
Some green herbs right at the end, like parsley, chervil, or minced chives, add a hit of freshness, and, of course, seasoning with salt and pepper is important. Just make sure to go easy on the salt and taste as you go if you've used soy sauce—it's already brought some saltiness to the mix.
Let's end it there, before I give in to the temptation to make a "morel of the story" joke.
1 tablespoon (15ml) vegetable or canola oil
8 ounces (225g) morel mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and split in half lengthwise
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 medium clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon; optional)
2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon (5ml) soy sauce
1 teaspoon (5ml) fresh juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup (60ml) homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock, or water
1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs, such as chives, chervil, or parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat oil in a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until well browned, about 4 minutes total.
Reduce heat to medium-high and add shallot and garlic (if using). Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add butter, soy sauce, lemon juice, and chicken stock or water and cook, swirling pan, until liquid reduces and morels are coated in a creamy sauce, about 1 minute. Stir in herbs, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 6g||8%|
|Saturated Fat 3g||13%|
|Total Carbohydrate 5g||2%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||6%|
|Total Sugars 1g|
|Vitamin C 2mg||11%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|