By Debra Meadow of Blue Raven Wellness
My husband I had friends over last weekend and one of the couples brought gold for a hostess gift. They handed me a limp, slightly damp brown paper bag, saying, “Hope you can use these.” I peered inside to find a nest of perfect morel mushrooms. Not just three or four, but about a half pound. Like I said: Gold. With friends like these, who needs other friends? Just kidding, other friends: We love you, too.
Morels are difficult to cultivate, which accounts for their rich price tag. They are the same species as the truffle, so if you look at it that way, they’re a bargain! As with most wild mushrooms, they are very nutritious and, according to the USDA, are high in iron, phosphorus and potassium and one of the best plant sources of vitamin D. But, really, I’d just as soon get my vitamin D from the sun. I eat morels because they are fresh, wild and soooooo over-the-top delicious. They have an earthy, nutty flavor that sings in comparison to the nearly tasteless cultivated white mushroom, but it’s also not as powerful as the strong-tasting shiitake mushroom.
And then there’s the aphrodisiac factor. Early (first couple of centuries A.D.) philosophers and herbalists swore by something called the “doctrine of signatures,” the idea that useful plants looked like the body parts they were supposed to enhance. Hence, we have asparagus appearing on Valentine’s Day dinner plates, as well as morels, with their long, tapered caps.
I wasn’t keen on letting this precious gift sit around, so the following morning I attempted creamed morels on toast with poached eggs for breakfast. I wanted the mushrooms to play the starring role, since I can safely say they won’t be making a frequent appearance on my table. Once we dug in to the tender bites bathed in butter and cream, I was in love, so I can vouch for their seductive powers. I can’t honestly remember ever eating a more delicious breakfast, and it probably ranks up there with my top ten all-time most delicious meals.
Yes, morels are pricey, but even if you only treat yourself once a year, you won’t regret it. I’m still swooning.
½ pound fresh morel mushrooms
¼ cup minced shallot
2 tablespoons butter, plus some for the toast
6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons dry sherry or Madeira
Salt and pepper to taste
2 slices good white bread or 6 to 8 slices baguette
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
Fleur de Sel or other coarse grind sea salt
2 – 4 poached pastured eggs (optional)
With a pastry brush or soft cloth, brush excess dirt from the mushrooms. Do not rinse or they will become waterlogged. Slice each mushroom lengthwise and then in ¼” crosswise slices. Start some water simmering to poach eggs, if using.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add sherry or Madeira, reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook for 5 minutes more.
Uncover pot and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in cream; simmer until slightly thickened, 2 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Toast bread and spread with butter. Place toast on two plates. Top each serving of toast with half the mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with chives, garnish with sea salt, place poached eggs on top and serve immediately.
Note: If morels aren’t available, try this with other wild or exotic varieties, like oyster mushrooms, cremini or chanterelles, or a combination.