Morels are a highly prized type of mushroom that have a rich, earthy, nutty flavor. While they can be eaten raw, most chefs recommend soaking morels in water or milk before cooking to rid them of any grit or dirt. This also helps to soften the mushrooms and enhance their flavor. But what should you do after you’ve soaked your morels? Here are some tips for handling and cooking morels after soaking.
Drain and Pat Dry
After soaking morels in water or milk to clean them, the first step is to drain them thoroughly and pat dry with a paper towel or clean kitchen cloth. You don’t want excess moisture on the mushrooms before cooking, as that can make them slimy. Carefully transfer the morels from the soaking liquid to a colander or strainer. Allow all the liquid to drain off for a minute or two. Then spread the mushrooms out on a few layers of paper towels or a clean cloth and gently press to absorb any remaining moisture.
Trim and Inspect
Once drained and dried, it’s a good idea to trim away any damaged or discolored parts of the morel mushrooms with a paring knife or kitchen shears. Also inspect each mushroom cap and stem closely and remove any bits of debris, dirt or grit that may still be clinging on. It’s crucial to clean morels very thoroughly before eating them raw or cooking.
Store in the Fridge
If you don’t plan on using your soaked morels right away, they should be stored in the refrigerator. Place them in a paper towel lined airtight container or zip lock bag in the fridge. The towels will continue to wick away excess moisture. Properly stored, soaked morels will keep fresh in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Sauté in Butter or Oil
The most popular way to cook fresh morels is to sauté them in butter, olive oil or bacon fat. The high heat helps bring out their woodsy, nutty essence. Add the mushrooms directly to the hot pan after patting dry. Sauté over medium-high heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and herbs like thyme.
Another easy and flavorful technique is to pan fry soaked morels. Heat about 1/4 inch of olive oil or butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the fat is shimmering, add the drained morels in an even layer. Let them fry undisturbed until the bottoms are crispy and browned, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and fry the other side. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Roast in the Oven
Roasting brings out the naturally rich flavor of morels. Toss the mushrooms in olive oil and spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast at 400°F for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned. Shake the pan periodically for even cooking. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and chopped parsley.
Add to Scrambled Eggs
The luxurious taste and texture of morels makes them a perfect addition to scrambled eggs. Simply sauté the mushrooms as above, then add beaten eggs to the pan. Gently scramble until the eggs are set but still moist. The earthy morels take the breakfast staple to the next level.
Make Mushroom Gravy
A tasty way to serve morels for breakfast is to make a mushroom gravy, ideal for biscuits and gravy. Sauté the mushrooms in butter or bacon drippings. Add flour to make a roux, then whisk in milk, stock or cream. Simmer until thickened. Season with salt, pepper and herbs.
Morels work wonderfully in stir fry dishes. Simply heat vegetable oil in a wok or skillet, then stir fry thinly sliced meats like chicken, beef or pork for 1-2 minutes. Add your drained morels and stir fry 2-3 minutes more. Then add sliced veggies like peppers, snap peas or bok choy and cook until just tender. Serve over rice.
Toss with Pasta
For a quick and satisfying meal, sauté the mushrooms in olive oil with garlic and fresh herbs like parsley, thyme or rosemary. Toss the morel mixture with cooked pasta. Finish with grated parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice. Fettuccine, linguine or pappardelle work nicely.
Morels create luxurious depth and flavor when added to a creamy risotto. Make the rice dish according to your usual method, sautéing shallots or onions in butter and olive oil first. Fold in the morels a few minutes before the risotto is done cooking for fantastic texture and woodsy aroma.
An easy way to use morels is to garnish your favorite soup. Sauté them first as above, then use them to top servings of creamy mushroom soup, chicken noodle soup, tomato bisque, French onion soup, or wild rice soup. They’ll add lovely texture and flavor.
Bake into Quiche
Chopped morels are right at home baked inside a savory custard quiche. First par-cook the mushrooms by sautéing. Mix with beaten eggs, cream or milk, cheese, and other add-ins like ham, bacon, caramelized onions or spinach. Bake in a pie crust at 350°F until set.
For an easy brunch dish, fill up a classic omelet with sautéed morels. Cook your eggs as usual, then sprinkle the mushrooms over half of the omelet before folding it over. The creamy eggs pair perfectly with the earthy morels.
Top Flatbread Pizza
Elevate homemade or store-bought pizza by topping it with morels after soaking and sautéing them. Their rich flavor and chewy texture make a fantastic pizza topping. Pair with melty mozzarella cheese, fresh herbs and a drizzle of truffle oil if desired.
Mix into Stuffing
Chopped, sautéed morels can be mixed into stuffing or dressing for an extra flavor boost. Use them to Stuff mushrooms caps, chicken breasts, pork chops or game hens before roasting. Or fold them into stuffing to be baked inside the turkey or alongside it.
Fold into Mashed Potatoes
Another tasty way to serve morels is to gently fold them into mashed potatoes just before serving. Sauté the mushrooms first to enhance their flavor. Then toss gently with hot creamy mashed potatoes. Top with extra butter or cheese if desired.
Make Mushroom Caps
You can turn morel mushroom caps into the perfect two bite appetizer. Fill each cap with a mixture of cooked sausage meat, cream cheese, herbs and panko breadcrumbs. Bake at 400°F until heated through and golden brown for 10-15 minutes.
Create Mushroom “Bacon”
Morels can be turned into a crunchy, smoky mushroom “bacon” that’s great on salads, sandwiches and more. Slice the mushrooms thin and marinate in soy sauce, maple syrup and smoked paprika. Bake at 275°F turning once until crispy, about 30 minutes.
Braise with Wine and Cream
Braising is a foolproof way to cook morels into tender perfection. Sauté them first in butter or oil. Deglaze the pan with white wine or sherry, then add chicken or vegetable stock. Simmer until the morels are very tender before removing from heat and stirring in cream or crème fraiche.
You can throw drained morels right onto the grill for quick cooking and wonderful smoky flavor. Toss them first in olive oil and seasoning. Grill over direct high heat just until grill marks appear and the mushrooms soften, 2-3 minutes per side. Finish with a squeeze of lemon.
An easy oven method for cooking morels is to broil them. Place on an oiled oven-safe pan or rack and broil 4-5 inches from heat source for 2-3 minutes per side until browned. Toss first in oil, salt, pepper and herbs if desired for added flavor.
Add to Kabobs
Because of their meaty texture, morels work great threaded onto skewers for grilled kabobs. Alternate pieces of the mushroom with cubed chicken, steak, shrimp, halloumi or tofu. Brush with a marinade first for extra flavor. Grill over medium heat until done.
Make Mushroom Sauce
Save your leftover braising liquid from cooking morels to use as an instant mushroom sauce. Purée the mushrooms and liquid in a blender until smooth. Use this savory sauce to top grilled meats like steak, chicken or pork chops for an extra layer of woodsy flavor.
Sauté into Rice Pilaf
While cooking rice pilaf on the stovetop, add chopped morels to the onion and garlic base before adding the rice and liquid. Sauté briefly until the mushrooms soften, then continue making the pilaf. The morels will add hearty flavor and texture.
Blend into Soup
Purée sautéed morels with cooked potatoes, leeks and broth in the blender for an easy wild mushroom potato soup. You can also add morels to cream of mushroom soup. Purée some of the braising liquid for intense earthy flavor.
Make Morel Butter
Mix finely chopped sautéed morels into softened butter to make a compound morel butter. Spread over grilled meats like steak or lamb chops, add a dollop on top of chicken breasts or fish fillets before baking, or use as a scrumptious toast topping.
Infuse Cream or Oil
The woodsy flavor of morels can be infused into cream or oil to use in other dishes. Sauté the mushrooms in cream, milk, olive oil or butter. Strain out the solids and use the infused liquid for rich depth of flavor in pastas, risottos, etc.
Simmer into Broth
To make homemade mushroom broth, simmer trimmed morel scraps or stems in water with aromatics like thyme, parsley and black peppercorns. Strain and use this savory broth as a base for soups, risottos or stews.
To preserve morels for long term use, slice them thinly after cleaning and dehydrate in the oven at 200°F or in a food dehydrator until completely dried out. Store the dried morels in an airtight container. Rehydrate in soups or sauces.
You can also pickled trimmed morels for a fun way to enjoy their texture and tangy flavor. Pack sterilized jars with morels and cover with hot brine flavored with spices and aromatics. Refrigerate to pickle for 1-2 weeks before eating.
Freezing is another good preservation method for morels. Clean and slice the mushrooms, then spread in a single layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Place in the freezer until solid, then transfer to airtight freezer bags. Frozen morels will keep for up to 6 months.
Make a Morel Compound Butter
A morel compound butter is delicious way to add flavor. Sauté chopped morels in butter until softened. Allow to cool slightly, then process in a food processor with room temperature butter and herbs until smooth. Form into a log, wrap and chill until firm.
Add to Pâté
Chopped morels can be mixed into smooth liver pâté for extra richness. Sauté the mushrooms first in butter or oil. Pulse into the food processor along with cooked liver, spices, cream and brandy until smooth.
Top Off Oysters
For an elegant appetizer, top freshly shucked oysters on the half shell with sautéed morels and garlic butter. Broil briefly just until the butter bubbles and mushrooms are heated through.
Bake into Quiche
A classic French mushroom quiche is elevated by adding sautéed morels. Mix them into the egg and cream custard filling along with cheese like gruyère. Bake in a pie crust until set and golden on top.
As you can see, there are endless delicious options for making the most of fresh morels after you’ve soaked and cleaned them. Their unique earthy, nutty flavor pairs well in everything from breakfast scrambles to dinner entrees. With proper handling, these wild mushrooms can be transformed into culinary masterpieces. Whether you sauté, bake, broil, grill or fold them into other dishes, morels are sure to add gourmet appeal and taste.