Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Morel Madness‏ By: Lowell Washburn

Although definitely winding down, this year's spring mushroom season continues -- at least in the extreme northeast corner of the state. 

In reality, there are only two basic ways to cook these out-of-this-world taste treats --- indoors or outdoors.  Or to put it another way, civilized or uncivilized.  The indoor method utilizes clean natural gas and can often involve complex recipes.  The outdoor method utilizes natural fuels gathered from the same woodlands where the mushrooms were gathered.  Other than the morels themselves, this method involves but one additional ingredient -- butter.  For open fire cooking, I prefer to use a flat cast iron utensil.  While waiting for burning wood to become coals, I use the time to clean fish or halve the mushrooms.  Most people think that, before cooking, they need to cut, wash, salt, soak, and then carefully inspect each and every morel before they can even begin to think about cooking.   This is nuts.  Anyone who would treat a fresh morel that way should have their stick matches taken away and be forced to eat at fast food drive-throughs.  Culinary works of art, morel mushrooms are much too delicate for such barbaric treatment.  The only thing that washing and soaking will accomplish is that the mushrooms will become tasteless, soggy and fall apart.  Fresh morels deserve respect.  They should be consumed; not tortured.  Once captured, morels should be taken directly to the fire, cut in half, and cooked in butter.  That's it; nothing else -- no washing, no salt, no nothing.  Well, a hint of olive oil maybe; but since we're hunting and cooking in northeast Iowa's dairy country, I'll stick with the butter.  

"What about those insects," you ask?  Not to worry.  As things start to heat up most insects, especially the larger species, will quickly escape the morel's folds -- but much to their dismay, will usually not survive the swim through bubbling butter.  No matter, once exposed, the drifting insects are easy to work around.  Smaller insect life?  Also no problem; you usually can't see and never will taste them -- so just eat and enjoy. 

By the end of the annual mushroom run, any hunter worth his salt will smell like wood smoke, have consumed more bugs than a missionary, and will have blood samples running about 25 percent butter.  Although the morels will soon be gone, I'm already looking forward to September's first batch of chicken-of-the-woods.

I Remain, 
Pastor Steve

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