Part of morels’ mystique? The rituals and particularities that go into their care. We asked morel expert Lucy House, a beloved instructor at the Great Lakes Culinary Institute in Traverse City, for her top 10 tips on what to do once you have your mushrooms home.
- Look your mushrooms over. House says fresh morels should be firm, slightly moist and lightly springy with a rich, woodsy fragrance. Reject any that are dry or slimy.
- To avoid storing wet mushrooms, which can go bad quickly, don’t rinse or wash morels until you’re ready to use them.
- Resist the urge to hoard your morels; they are best eaten within four days of picking them.
- Keep them fresh in a brown bag or a bowl with a damp paper towel over them in the fridge–if you don’t use them in five days, they’re history.
- To clean fresh morels: Fill a large bowl with cool water–enough so the morels float. Pour a good amount of Morton salt in the bowl and swish the mushrooms around gently. "The salt draws out any bugs hiding in the crevices," House says. Rinse the morels with fresh water to remove excess salt.
- When pan-frying, use a heavy or cast iron pan and melt half butter (for its taste) and half olive oil (it doesn’t burn as readily as butter). Fresh morels are moist enough that they don’t require an egg wash; simply roll them in a little Drakes, or, if you prefer, some seasoned flour.
- Dry morels on a string hanging in your kitchen (use a needle and semi-heavy line like button thread) leaving space between each mushroom. Make sure they are dried crisp before putting them in an airtight jar, or they will mold. Keep jar in cool, dark, dry spot.
- Don’t worry about washing the morels before drying them; it just means it will take longer to evaporate that extra moisture. The bugs inside are going to die, anyway, and the dust will come off when you rehydrate them, House says.
- Dried morels work the same as fresh in most recipes. Rehydrate in very hot water, broth or wine. You can strain this liquid with a very fine sieve and use it as a base in your sauce. The morels’ flavor will have infused the broth or wine and will add depth to your dish.
- For seasonings, try garlic, lemon, nutmeg, tarragon, thyme, or a splash of Marsala, sherry or port. Keep it simple–you don’t want to disturb the morels’ own complex flavor.