Order Pezizales, Family Morchellaceae
CAP TAN TO YELLOW, WITH PITS
Cap: 6-9 cm high; 3-5 cm wide; oval; tan to yellow-brown; covered with small, randomly-shaped pits that have light edges; the cap is attached to the stem from top to bottom (see photo at bottom of page)
Stalk: 1-8 cm long; 2-4 cm thick; whitish; slightly enlarged at base; hollow
ALONG RIVER BANKS; IN BURNED AREAS
Stink horn (Phallus impudicus) -- grows from egg, stinks!
Helvella crispa -- cap is folded, lacks pits
Morels are rare in most cities. Luckily, some specialty grocery stores offer fresh morels in late May through June. When you hunt for them, even if you only find a few at a time, remember that of all mushrooms, the morels make the best extract. So dry those few you find and stockpile them for later use in an extract (See the Cooking section of this website.)
Morels often grow in sandy soil and whether dry or fresh they must be washed under cool running water to remove as much of the sand as possible. Even with washing, there will always be a bit of sand when you reconstitute dry morels so pay attention when you pour off your extract. (I use a suction baster to pull the liquid off the top and leave the dirt at the bottom of my pan.)
This recipe makes use of dried morels. It is named Pooka Pate in honor of my cat. Usually a polite and well-behaved pet, she went wild for this delicious spread and would not leave anyone who possessed a plate of it alone until they shared. I learned to make extra so I could put a separate plate out for the demanding little beggar.
Pooka Pate with Morels
16 medium dried morels
1 ½ c fresh chicken stock (If canned chicken stock is used, increase the gelatin to two packets so it will set up properly.)
1 pkt. unflavored gelatin
¼ c cold fresh chicken stock
1 c chicken meat
1 c cooked brown rice
season to taste w/ salt, pepper and rosemary
Reconstitute the mushrooms by simmering them in 1 ½ cup of chicken stock. Meanwhile, pour the gelatin into a small bowl. Add the cold stock and let it soak for a few minutes. When the mushrooms are soft, remove them from the hot stock and chop coarsely. Pour some the hot stock over the gelatin and stir to soften it. (Remember to look for sand from the mushrooms.)
Put all ingredients in a food processor and puree. Season to taste and pour the mixture into a lightly oiled pate mold or loaf pan. Chill to set. Makes about four cups.
Serve with toast points, spicy mustard, cucumber slices, cress leaves and pickles. Ice cold cucumber vodka martinis are a refreshing accompaniment on hot summer days.
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