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Apr 6, 2009 01:51 PM

Morel Mystique

I've never cooked with morels before, and seeing them fresh in my supermarket today, I thought I'd finally give them a try. I have a pound of fresh fettucine that needs to get used, so I thought I'd make a sauce with shallots, morels, asparagus and cream.
However, further online investigation of morels has made me wonder if I'm up to the challenge.

Aside from hearing that worms and "critters" like to hide in the crevices, some people seem to have a verrrry bad reaction when wine is consumed with morels.
Any idea how widespread this wine interaction is?

I'm not as put off by the buggies as I am by the prospect of being incapacitated for a day or two with hangover and stomach issues. However, I see both being a potential problem for my husband. Telling him he can't drink wine with his meal, and possibly having him find an unwanted visitor in his dish will not make him a fan of morels.

Any advice/suggestions to ease my anxiety?
Should have entitled this post "Morel Dilemma" :)

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  1. I buy fresh morels at this time of year (big splurge, huh?) at our local farmers market. I slice them in half and saute in butter with maybe a splash of red wine. I've never seen any creepy crawlers. And I've never heard of nor had any reaction to drinking wine with morels. I think your dish sounds great and maybe my market will have local morels AND asparagus this Saturday.

    PS: I DON'T however use them as a topping on my Pillsbury thin crust pizza dough :)

    1. I'm with c oliver. Wash and rinse well. Slice in half, saute in butter. But the cream and asparagus sauce sounds wunderbar!

      1. Small critters are perfectly normal in wild morels. After all they are a fungus! Split them in half length wise and soak them in a saltwater brine for 30 minutes. This will kill any unwanted freeloaders.
        Reactions from Morels are pretty rare AFAIK. There are far more reactions from people unfamiliar with wild mushrooms who attempt foreaging and wind up eating false morels.
        The last few years the morels we have seen at this time of year have been imported if that matters to you. The quality has not impressed me and simply does not compare to domestic morels IMO.
        It is still a good month early for wild morels.
        I hope this helps with your Morel dilima. Enjoy your meal with a nice glass of wine and relax. :)

        3 Replies
        1. re: Fritter

          Thanks for the timing tip. I'm in Southern Oregon and I just remember spring. So they'll probably arrive with the asparagus. At $20/# they're a splurge but even my frugal husband agrees they're worth it.

          1. re: c oliver

            Hey, when did they move the border? Am I in Southern Oregon now too, or did they draw the line at Truckee?

            To the OP - just make sure the 'shrooms are cooked fully and you shouldn't have any problems. The publication that correlated problems with the combination of alcohol and morels came out in 1964, so it ain't exactly breaking news, and lots of folks have had wine with their dinner since then.

            Turns out some mushrooms have a naturally-occurring version of antabuse; the ink cap (aka tippler's bane) is the worst. But morels aren't typically a problem; at least for anybody I know.

            Drinking before gathering morels, on the other hand, can lead to all kinds of difficulties. That's a hobby where you really want your wits about you.

            1. re: alanbarnes

              You can draw the line whereever you want so, sure, you can be in So. OR also. Actually we have a second home here --- would you like to buy it? So here for a couple of months and will enjoy spring gardening - and morels and asparagus. Yum.

        2. $20 a pound is cheap - right now in my part of the Midwest morels are $50 a pound.

          Just give the 'shrooms a saltwater soak and cook them as you mentioned in your post. Don't worry about consuming too many; the only instances I know of where people have had bad reactions to true morels is when they've been eating them every day for weeks. Many fungi contain small amounts of toxins and it takes a while for those to build up and do any damage to your liver.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jillp

            Well, when I buy them, I'm buying them straight from the source. Our market is on Saturdays so they were probably in the ground Friday. Same with asparagus. It's a wonderful, seasonal luxury and I DO appreciate it.

          2. Thank you all!
            I went ahead and cooked them up as planned. Examining them closely, they looked quite clean. I gave them a short soak and sliced them in half (relieved to find nothing hiding inside, LOL)
            Not having seen Fritter's post before the meal, we played it safe and opted for Pellegrino with dinner instead of wine :)

            $20/lb is quite a bargain! They were $46/lb here in NJ (I only bought 1/4 lb).

            I adapted an epicurious recipe to quantities I had on hand and it was a success. 2 large shallots thinly sliced, sauteed in 3T butter with my 1/4 lb of morels (wish I had gotten more). Added 1 1/4c chicken stock and cut asparagus, covered and boiled 2 mins. Next added 2/3c cream and 2T chopped fresh tarragon, simmering until slightly thick. When the fettucine was ready, I mixed it with the sauce and 1/2c parmesan.

            Very tasty and no ill effects to report. I'm emboldened and will enjoy with a glass of wine next time!
            My husband's take? It was delicious, but maybe it would be good with some sausage next time (his typical critique of meatless dishes!)

            1 Reply
            1. re: choco_lab38

              Sounds very good! :)
              Morels are now being cultivated and imported (France) so that is the reason we have been seeing them early in the states the last few years.
              It May be of interest to some to note that Morels come in different variants. Brown, Black, and White which is highly prized here and my favorite as they have a thicker flesh and taste "meatier". They can also grow very large. Several years ago I found my version of the great pumpkin in a big patch that were all the size of small gnomes. Sadly I was spotted sneaking out of my secret spot a few years later and that area is now over run. Morel spots are very closely guarded secrets. ;)
              Here is a link to a very reliable vendor I have ordered from many times in case others can not find them in their area. This is a great source for truffles and foie as well.