The Morel Mushroom: Recipes for Fun, Memories, & Tenderloin from Northern Michigan

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Morel season is about so much more than mushrooms. It means warmer days, wild woods, and adventure. So, while there are many morel mushroom recipes out there – and while I do include one below – your recipe for fun might be the biggest part of what makes this elusive mushroom so spellbinding.

But it’s also incredibly delicious.

The morel is perhaps the most sought-after mushroom of foodies—and for good reason. It’s not only difficult to find; more importantly, it has a delightful, earthy flavor. The black morels we prefer to collect in Michigan are strong and need very little intervention from the cook in order to make you look like a star come serving time.

Which is why I’ve made it a point to become a morel hunter. For years, the kids and I have hunted these tasty mushrooms together around the lakehouse in Northern Michigan. We take the 4 wheelers back into the woods and load baskets full of delicious morels and ramps, or wild leeks. Precious cargo.

Although a heard of motorized toys isn’t the most nature-licious method of transport, there are a lot of acres to cover, and a lot of delicious little morels just waiting to delight our taste buds. So we do what we must in the name of gastronomic delight.

A pound of fresh morels could carry a price tag around $50 if we picked it up at the store. But when we gather these little beauties from our woods, we actually net out ahead…not only do we collect them for free; we also come home with 2 invaluable commodities: wonderful memories and the sweet, invigorated energy of a morning spent exploring the forest and digging in dirt.

In the afternoon, I cook.

What’s my favorite use for morels and ramps? Creating delightful new morel mushroom recipes, of course! And one of my go-tos is a delicious sauce for beef tenderloin that features the wild-growing morels and ramps, which God in His wisdom sends up from the earth in the same season.

If you can’t get your hands on ramps, you could use good, old-fashioned leeks. But just to be clear, you’ll be happier if you stick to the wild edibles. They have a perfect flavor to combine with morels—stronger than leeks, more pungent than scallions.

I’m not much for specificity in recipes, but this should start you off with a general idea:

Morel Mushroom Recipes: Sauce for Beef Tenderloin

Ingredients:

  • ½ a stick to 1 stick of butter – as much as you can stand to add without feeling guilty about your thighs
  • A handful of ramps or wild leeks (if you can’t get them, just grab some leeks from the store)
  • Some garlic if you love it (especially important if you’re using standard leeks, which are less garlicky than ramps). Only fresh, no exceptions.
  • Generous splash of good red wine, to taste
  • Morels to fill the pan – go for a wow, that’s a lot of mushrooms amount
  • Salt, to taste

Instructions:

Before you cook, clean.

Soak your morels in a saltwater bath, because when you harvest them yourself, they bring all kinds of disgusting little surprises home in those defining grooves. Mainly slugs and sand from the soil they love best. So if you don’t want crunchy sauce, rinse thoroughly—and gently, because these are fragile delicacies.

I recommend running them through about 3 baths. The saltwater works really well. The morels will float, and all those nasty little stowaways should sink or drift away.

When you’re ready to cook, start by melting the butter in a big sauté pan. Add your ramps and garlic (if you’re using it) and simmer gently for a few minutes. Now pour in that delicious wine, and let it all cook down a bit while you enjoy a glass yourself.

Add the morels last, just to warm them. I cook them only briefly, both so they retain their flavor and because if you cook them too long, they become limp and soggy.

Serve the sauce over roasted beef tenderloin for an elegant and decadent up-north meal.

How simple is that?



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