4.20.2009

We walked right into a Merkle patch!

In one of my recent Whirlies, I wrote about Merkles (morels), the elusive and delicious wild mushroom that pops up around these parts in the Springtime. A couple of weeks ago, we traveled all the way out to Hardin County and ransacked the forest, only to return with two teeny guys and a handful of ticks.

Well, get a load of this. On Saturday we went hiking with the dogs ... we weren't even looking for mushrooms! And we walked into a thicket of the most beautiful, GIGANTIC, golden Merkles the world has ever seen. Kurt saw one first - he stopped before it, sort of speechless. I swear my heart skipped a beat. Two beats! Then I looked around. I saw another and another! We carefully plucked them from the ground and hurried back to the car, giddy with careful handfuls.

We walked straight into a morel patch!

We were rather decisive about how we'd cook them. I didn't want to mask any of the flavor, so I wanted a simple recipe that would highlight the savory smokiness of the mushrooms. Kurt suggested a stir-fry with caramelized onions and kale. He is sort of a genius. We whisked together an easy sauce of honey, teriyaki and chili oil. It was perfect.

Morel Stir-fry

Morels Stir-fried with Kale and Onions

Look for Morels in the early Spring, after the first frost, when the ground warms up and the dogwood flowers are the size of a mouse ear. Search for them on the forest floor, under speckled sunlight, sometimes around fallen trees or sprouting mayapples. You can read more about morel foraging here.

To prepare the mushrooms, gently brush off any loose dirt. Cut in half, lengthwise, and submerge in a bowl of salt water. Allow to soak for 1-2 hours in the refrigerator.

Ingredients:
1 lb morel mushrooms, cut into halves or quarters, soaked in salt water
1 bunch kale, deveined and roughly chopped
1 small onion
1 tbsp. peanut oil
2 tbsp. teriyaki sauce
1 tsp. chili oil
1 tbsp. honey

Heat peanut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and kale. Stir carefully until kale cooks down, about 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. When the kale turns bright green and the mushrooms are tender, add the sauce and allow to cook for another minute.


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