Magic Mushrooms

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Liz posted a picture of some morel mushrooms on Facebook, indicating that she had picked them while at her weekend home in Warkworth, ON. I commented on the photo, pointing out that I was her friend and that I liked her very, very much, not actually expecting morels to be forthcoming – I’m not sure I’d share if I had my own personal stash, after all.

Liz is a very sweet lady, though, and early last week, after another trip to the country, she emailed me, offering me what was probably the last of her morel harvest. “It’s not much,” she said. “Only about 3 handfuls.”

You know the old saying about never looking a gift horse in the mouth, and so off I went in joyous anticipation to meet a lady about some mushrooms. In trade, I took some bottles of gluten-free beer for Liz’s husband, because when someone brings you the last of their morels, you should reciprocate in some way. And since Liz’s husband can’t drink regular beer, I’m hoping that the exchange was as appreciated on their end as it was on mine.

Liz had the ‘shrooms wrapped up in cheesecloth, so it wasn’t until I got them home that I really got to admire them. So beautiful, these magical things, like little balls of brown lace. And so many! I’d have been overjoyed with half this amount; Liz had been especially generous.

I decided to saute them with fiddleheads and garlic and then serve them with gnocchi in brown butter.

The dish was wonderfully reminiscent of spring. The morels had a slight tang to the nose, but were earthy and warm in terms of flavour. And I don’t think anything goes better with morels than crisp green fiddleheads.

My one failure was in not cleaning them well. I’m one of those people who doesn’t really like to wash regular mushrooms, but how to clean out the various crevices and gills of a morel? Various websites advised soaking them, while others advised vehemently against soaking them. One site suggested dropping them, point down, onto a counter to knock the dirt and potential bugs out of the crevices. I ended up just wiping them off and cutting them up, although in retrospect I should maybe have soaked them, as they ended up being grittier than I’d have liked.

Nevertheless, my friend Liz was kind enough to give me the opportunity to try one of the quintessential flavours of spring, and I am truly thankful for her kindness and generosity. I know I’ll be searching them out again next spring to try them again. And I’ll be taking care to wash them better.