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A&E >  Food

The morel of the story: eat more mushrooms

Morels are valued for their depth of flavor, lending an earthiness to all kinds of dishes. (Adriana Janovich / The Spokesman-Review)
Morels are valued for their depth of flavor, lending an earthiness to all kinds of dishes. (Adriana Janovich / The Spokesman-Review)

The shrooms are in bloom.

Morels, one of spring’s most prized foraged foods, started popping up at the end of March in and around the Inland Northwest. The season is fleeting; it typically lasts through mid-June.

All the better reason to enjoy them now.

These little nuggets – brainy, grainy and resembling coral – are valued for their depth of flavor, lending an earthiness to all kinds of dishes. Butter brings out the best of them. So they’re particularly lovely as a simple side or in a sauce. Onions, garlic and shallots enrich their flavor.

Be sure to select morels that are firm and not too dry nor spongy.

And take care cleaning them. Dirt and unwanted dinner guests tend to collect in their frilly nooks and crannies as well as their inner cavity. Morels are hollow. A soak in a little salted water should do the trick.

Consider cutting them into rings, like some sort of mushroom calamari. Or, you could slice them lengthwise or quarter them, double-checking to make sure their inner tube is free from debris.

Then, start melting that butter.

Morel Mushroom Duxelles

From Adam Swedberg, executive catering chef at the Historic Davenport Hotel in downtown Spokane

2 pounds morel mushrooms

2 pounds shiitake mushrooms, destemmed

1 cup olive oil

1 cup shallots, minced

6 cloves garlic, minced

4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped

1 cup sherry

Salt and pepper, to taste

Place mushrooms in food processor and pulse until well chopped. Heat olive oil in skillet, sauté shallots and garlic for about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, parsley, thyme and sherry, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve: Mushroom duxelles can be used on a variety of dishes, such as beef Wellington or stuffed mushroom caps. It can also be baked into puff pastry, used as topping on steak, or just spread onto a toasted baguette.

Note: The final product should be a paste consistency. It can be stored in cooler up to a week or frozen up to six months.

Morel Mushroom Cream Sauce

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 medium yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound morel mushrooms

2 teaspoons thyme

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper, to taste

Grated or shaved Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then add onion, sauté for about 3 minutes. Add garlic, mushrooms and thyme, and sauté for about 5 more minutes. Deglaze the pan with the wine and simmer to reduce the liquid by about two-thirds. Lower heat and stir in cream until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Serve atop a chicken breast with rice or pasta, garnished with grated or shaved Parmesan.

Note: Red wine works fine, too. But it will change the color and flavor of this rich, creamy sauce.

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