Thursday, May 11, 2017

It's Morel Mushroom Season

Mushroom haters, look away. Things are going to get really mushroomy in a very short time. It's springtime and in most of the country, springtime means rainy cool weather mixed with a few warm days combined with woodsy landscapes and lots of decaying leaves and wood and that makes the perfect climate for fungal things to start to grow. Things like moss, mold, and mushrooms! In Iowa, as in many other states, the big prize in the woods is the morel mushroom. People will spend entire days tromping through wet and squishy wooded areas, mesh bag in hand, eagle eyes focused, hoping to find that one in a million gem- the morel. Personally, I keep my eyes focused on the ground and scan the trees for my favorite spring mushroom- the pheasantback, which is also plentiful during morel season but it often overlooked. Anyway, the morel is the big draw here and if you're not a mushroom hunter, you better know someone who is and isn't stingy because these babies will cost you a mint in the grocery stores, upwards of $30 a pound depending on the season.

I have to admit, I no longer wander around the woods looking for mushrooms. Growing up as little girls my sister and I always went mushroom hunting with our dad, and in fact the last time I did go out was also with my dad. We found nothing, not even a tick, but ended up having a nice lunch in a small town café afterwards.


This year I had all but given up on the hope of having any tasty mushrooms to eat. Someone offered to sell me some, but they would have to be mailed and honestly, for $30 I wasn't sure what condition they'd be in by the time they arrived, so I declined. Then a miracle happened. One night, and we're talking everyday average weeknight, the kind of night you might do some laundry, or catch up on your DVRd shows or lawnwork, I got a text, from my daughter, and in that text was a picture. It was captioned "Is this a morel?" Incredibly, my daughter, who lives in the city even, was mowing her yard and doing her lawn thing and she found not one, but three nice morel mushrooms growing right  in her front yard. Of course, I exclaimed YES IT IS and then promptly asked "Can I have them?" I drove right over and claimed my prize.


It's pretty unusual to find a morel mushroom growing in a city yard. That's not really the ideal climate for these guys to grow, but on a shady slope in her front yard, apparently there is a pretty significant underground body to this mushroom because it sent up several of the fruiting bodies. Besides the three she found, we saw several stumps of stems where either a keen-eyed dogwalker had spotted a couple, or maybe a squirrel or raccoon found the tasty tidbits. Regardless, I still had two pretty big and one small morels to cook. I'm happy about that!



Most people, at least most people I know, egg, coat in cracker crumbs or flour and fry them. Like a vegetarian chicken nugget in a way, but to me this seems like a boring thing to do to such a delicacy that we have available for such a short time. I decided mine were not destined for the dredging plates but instead would meet some cousins, fellow forest dwellers porcini, wood ear and cute little white mushrooms and have a party atop a sizzling ribeye. Yes, that's definitely the way to go. My recipe is sized for dinner for two, so adjust accordingly if you're cooking for a larger group.



To get the most garlic flavor, use Sinful Food garlic olive oil. It makes a big difference in flavor! You can get your big clicking HERE.

Pan Seared Ribeyes with Wild Mushrooms

2 rib eye steaks
1/2 package (about 5 or 6) smallish mushrooms
3 morel mushrooms (fresh or dried)
4 or 5 dehydrated porcini mushrooms
3 or 4 dehydrated wood ear mushrooms
2 tablespoons chopped sun dried tomatoes
6 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper
Sinful Food garlic olive oil
butter
1 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons cognac or brandy
1/3 cup half and half
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in a teaspoon of water
chopped fresh parsley for serving



Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water until soft enough to cup up. Slice the button mushrooms and place in a medium bowl. Drain and pat the other mushrooms dry. If using fresh morels be sure to soak and clean them well and inspect for insects. Cut the mushrooms into half inch pieces.



In a heavy skillet (I recommend cast iron) melt about 3 tablespoons butter and add 3 tablespoons olive oil. When sizzling hot, add the mushrooms. Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally to allow the mushrooms to brown and cook off any excess liquid. Add the garlic and the tomatoes and cook for a minute or two. Season with salt and pepper.



When mushrooms have browned, add the cognac OFF THE HEAT and the beef broth. Bring to a boil and allow to reduce slightly. Add the half and half and continue cooking until thickened, using the cornstarch slurry if needed. Remove to a bowl and keep warm.



Rinse out the skillet. Set back on the heat over medium high. Season the steaks well (I like to say season aggressively) with salt and pepper. Add a swirl of olive oil to the skillet and add the steaks, cooking to desired doneness, then remove to a plate to rest. To serve, slice each steak into strips and place on serving place, top with the mushroom sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.



This dish looks so impressive when plated with the morels peeking through the rich sauce. We like our steak medium rare and the perfect side for this was a simple green salad with Dijon vinaigrette and shaved Asiago cheese. Simple, delicious food.

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