If you haven’t had a fried morel mushroom, you are not truly Iowan. These gorgeous little earthy nuggets are a celebration when they appear in late April, in Iowa. I’m no mushroom hunter, (as I don’t have to be) I can thankfully turn to my brother-in-law Drew for that. He’s got all of the special hiding spots, picks, cleans and prepares them. Oh, and he’s not divulging any of his secrets… he won’t even tell me where he finds them.
Since I’m no expert on hunting morels, all I am qualified to tell you is how to prep and cook them. Here’s my simple recipe for the best fried morel mushrooms you’ll ever taste. A delicate crisp coating, perfectly seasoned, deep fried and golden.
“Morel Night” is a religion in our family. It is a flexible holiday in which our whole family gets together, eats mushrooms and celebrates the arrival of spring. It is one of my favorite nights of the year. There’s nothing pretentious about it. No gifts, no fancy dresses to wear to church service, no buffet line and different sides to coordinate, no fancy plates or silverware.
Beer. Mushrooms. Win.
Clean and Dry:
Make sure the mushrooms are clean and dry before you begin breading them. Slice them in half, or if they are extra large, into quarters. Store them in a zip top bag with paper towels inside to take up any additional moisture.
I’ve read a few places about a poisonous morel-looking mushroom that has a stem that extends far up into the ‘cap’ of the mushroom with cottony fibers inside. Read more on identifying these poisonous morel-look-alikes, here.
Oil and Butter:
Drew and I like to cook the mushrooms in a mixture of oil and butter. If you only fry the breaded mushrooms in butter, the dairy solids in the butter will burn before your mushrooms are done. A combination of butter and oil brings up the burning temperature to keep your mushrooms golden brown.
Using a cast iron skillet to fry the mushrooms in is a great idea. Cast iron holds heat well and encourages even frying.
Here’s our secret family recipe.
You’ll never look at wild fungus the same way again.
Now Drew… If you are reading this, get moving and go find some more ‘shrooms.
Since you won’t share your secret hunting places with us.
Simple Fried Morel Mushrooms
By: Cristen and Drew foodandswine.com
1-2 pounds of morel mushrooms, cleaned sliced in half or quartered
1/4 C Milk
One box of Chicken in a Biskit crackers OR 3 sleeves of saltine crackers
1 Quart of vegetable oil (or other flavorless cooking oil, such as peanut, soybean etc.)
4 TBSP butter
Kosher salt for seasoning post-frying
Add oil (enough to fill the bottom of the pan to 3/4 inches up the side) and butter to large cast iron skillet, heat to medium/medium high heat. (350 degrees using an instant read thermometer)
Prepare breading station on three plates:
Plate #1: Add equal parts of flour (1.5 cups) and cornstarch (1.5 cups) to the plate, then add 1 tsp seasoned salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper and whisk around.
Plate #2: Add 2 eggs and 1/4 cup of milk, beat until incorporated
Plate #3: Add 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of cornstarch and 3 to 4 cups of crushed cracker crumbs, mix around (*if saltines are particularly flavorless, add a little seasoned salt and pepper to this mixture as well.
To prepare to fry:
Dip mushrooms in flour mixture on plate number one. Shake excess flour off.
Dip them in the egg mixture.
Roll them in the cracker/flour mixture. Set on a plate for frying.
Fry for 2-3 minutes or until golden on all sides. (Frying at 350 degrees will make your mushrooms perfect!)
Remove to paper towel lined plates to cool a bit. Sprinkle on a bit of kosher salt.
Serve warm, with beer.
*Depending on size of mushrooms, you may need to replenish various breading station plates. Have plenty of ingredients on hand!
*Size of skillet will indicate the amount of oil you will need for this “shallow fry”.