Morel Conspiracy

Yes, I believe the mushroom Gods have been in conspiracy with Mother Nature. The first of March we had a week of night temps in the 50’s and then two weeks of night temps in the 30’s, including two freezes a week ago. It has rained when cold and dry when warm. The seven day forecast is no rain and 70+ degree days. The woods are drying out quickly. Wow!

It’s not surprising that even though some people somewhere have found enough morels to suit them, none of my friends have. Personally, I have found one tiny black morel that was dried and bug eaten. My total is that and an additional 12 yellows. I’ll be foraging, with Rich, one more day – Tuesday – in the mountains, and then it’s surgery on the left eye.

Rich2Rich1Even with the scarcity, we found three “stuffer” yellows yesterday, Saturday,  at the same location we, along with Steve Peek,  found four big stuffers last year. The picture above is Rich with his two jewels. Holding them out front makes them larger optically. That’s an old fisherman’s trick. The same technique works with “dry land fish”.

We maximized our meager Friday find with fresh ramps, fresh asparagus from Rich’s garden and some farm eggs from a friend, and we made a big omelet.

All was not lost. We foraged some ramps for Rich to take back to our buddy Steve in Asheville. We weren’t able to get him out for a wheelchair foray, but we tell each other “Steve stories” as we forage.

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One-Eyed Morel Hunter

morel20162Well, not literally, but recent cataract surgery certainly mimics it. On March 24 I had the right one removed, and on April 21 the second one goes. In the meantime, none of my existing glasses work. The best arrangement is taking the right lens out of my backup bifocals. That keeps halos away at night, but hunting mushrooms is problematic because one eye is always blurry and working hard trying to compensate. Also, to protect the healing right eye, I use safety glasses while walking in the woods to keep twigs morel20161from zapping the surgeons handiwork. So, morel season is a challenge. Never the less, here is a picture of my first of the season, and wait ’til next year!!

Reports of black ones have been non-existent to scarce. This week, two friends have also found nice yellows. It may be that the vacillating temperatures have bypassed the black morels. I have found none in the two “early” patches that I always check beginning on mid-Match. We should have a good reading of the yellow morel possibilities this week.

Depending on the distance of the viewed object and type of glasses used (none, reading, of modified bifocals) I have to “feature” either my left or right eye. The result is constant winking with one eye or the other.

Signed: The one-eyed winking ‘shroomer (until 4/21/2016). Apologies for the pictures. The software has changed and I can’t get the images rotated properly. I’ll work on that, but maybe it’s just my squinting and winking and not the software.

Brined Mushrooms

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Many folks say, “brush only, never wash” your ‘shrooms. Although I always wash my chanterelles, soak my morels in salt water, and  wash lobster and other hardy mushrooms (such as chicken of the woods), I have refrained from washing the gilled mushrooms. That is, until I read about brining shiitake and crimini mushrooms in the Jan-Feb 2015 Cooks Illustrated issue. Below is a recipe that went Brine3along with the article. Here is my variation that works great!

Brine the Mushrooms:

Place shiitake mushrooms in zip lock bag with water and kosher salt ( 5 tsp salt per Quart t water) and let sit for 1 hour.

Roasted Shiitake with Parmesan and Pine Nuts

Salt & Pepper
Shiitakes (leave stems on)
2 Tbs Extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 tsp lemon juice
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 Tbs toasted pine nuts (I roast stove-top in a sauté pan with oil)
2 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Drain mushrooms and blot dry. Spread mushrooms on heavy baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat. Roast about 35-40 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and toss the mushrooms. Return and roast about 10 more minutes until browned. Remove and cut stems off mushroom (use scissors ’cause the shrooms are HOT and oiled)

Combine melted butter and lemon juice in large bowl. Add mushrooms and toss to coat. Add Parmesan, pine nuts and parsley. Toss to mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

NOTE: I roast with the stems still on so air moves easily around the caps. Freeze the stems and use them when making stock.

Base Recipe from: Cook’s Illustrated,  Jan-Feb, 2015