A generous client of my wife’s just gave us a stash of fresh morels, those prized mountain mushrooms that are a rite of spring for food connoisseurs everywhere. Also known as “molly moochers,” these rare edible fungi pack an intense earthy taste that pairs so well with cream and wine sauces, beef and so much more.
If you’re not convinced how sought-after these babies are, just take a look at how much they cost. A quick online search today showed options ranging from $17 and ounce (yep, for one ounce) up to nearly $1,900 for a 15-pound bag. Holy sticker shock, Batman!
So to make the most of these high-falutin’ mushrooms, we did a little digging (BA-DA-BING!) and got a great idea from our pediatrician. She recommended drying them in an low-heat oven, which not only intensifies their flavor but also enables you to preserve them longer. We Googled (when did that become an acceptable verb, by the way?) her idea and found an easy process that yielded great results …
- You rinse and soak them in a brine of salted water for several hours, which helps draw out any impurities that might be present. (Mushrooms can be a little iffy, you know, so this step made me feel better about eating something culled from the wild.)
- Then you let them dry on paper towels before arranging them on a cooling rack placed on a cookie sheet to go in the oven.
- Place them in a 140-degree oven and let them slowly dry out all day — up to 6, 8 or 10 hours — until all the moisture is gone but before they completely shrivel away. They will shrink quite a bit, but that’s OK. The flavor not only remains, but is more pronounced.
- Now place them in an airtight contrainer and either store in the refigerator (if you plan to use them within a few days) or freezer (to keep them much longer). When ready to use, you can either reconstitute them by soaking in boiling water to fatten ’em back up — although you lose some of the flavor — or, better yet, just chop up to give soups, salads or sauces an out-of-this-world kick.
I dried ours yesterday and now have a little Ziploc full of goodness just waiting to tantalize our tastebuds!