Recently I received a precious package of dried morels from my friend Jean of The Silver Star Inn. If you have not tasted morels yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. People around these parts go crazy for it. In fact there is even a festival dedicated to this fungi. Mark your calendars for May 15th and 16th if you are/or will be around southwest Wisconsin for Muscoda’s Morel Mushroom Festival. There will be fried morels, helicopter rides, the customary cheese stand, carnival and an antique tractor pull. What more could you want? If you cannot attend the festival you can also get morels by hunting for them. I’ve never done so partly because I’m afraid that I might pick up “false morels” which are toxic instead of the real ones. Another reason is that it is easier to buy them from the numerous road stands that pop up during the second week of May (usually sold at about $20-$25 per pound). This year, I’m excited to go on my first mushroom gathering with Jean and her daughter Ayla around their property so I can be an official “shroomer”. What did you think I was talking about anyway?
Morels have a gentle creamy and nutty flavor so it’s best to prepare them as simply as possible. To rehydrate, I soaked them in warm water for about 15 min. (Remember not to throw away the water for later use.) Then I browned some butter, added the morels and a clove of finely chopped garlic, and tossed some cooked cellentani (corkscrew) pasta in the pan. (If the pasta looks a little dry, add a little bit of the soaking water.) Next I added salt and pepper, some leftover sopraffina ricotta from Grande, and a sprinkling of chives that have recently grown back from the garden. Oh, and adding a little grated parmigiano reggiano highlights the nuttiness of the morels. A perfect meal!
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