So after all of this flirting with fancy recipes, I thought I'd try going back to basics. I found this handy website devoted to morels and decided to follow the very simplest recipe on the site, titled appropriately, "Less is More." Basically, just sauté in butter and serve with red meat. Well, Kevin and I aren't exactly fans of red meat. I know most people think that there is no finer treat than a thick, juicy, sautéed-to-perfection steak, but we are not among them, a sad irony since we live in Alberta--the beef capital of North America, where cow is cheaper than just about anything else you might cook for dinner.
Nonetheless, I bought myself a reasonable (though not exceptional) pair of steaks, and pan-fried them with nothing but a bit of butter and some port wine. Then I followed the recipe's instructions quartering my morels and sautéeing them in a cast-iron skillet with gobs of butter. (Again, to quote Julie/Julia from the movie: "The secret to sautéeing mushrooms is to absolutely drown the bastards in butter.") For a vegetable side, I borrowed from another recipe on the site, titled "Morels and Steak," which calls for sautéeing wild leeks in even more butter and a dash of sugar. "It's phenomenal," the author implores. "Trust me." I was skeptical. After all, leeks are just fancy onions. But ohmygod, was he right! I didn't even have wild leeks (or ramps), like he recommended, and they were still phenomenal. (Although a note to my fellow casual chefs: you need to cook store-bought leeks twice as long as the wild ones, and your breath will be killer for about two days afterward no matter how many times you brush your teeth.)
And the morels and steak? The most incredible explosion of flavor. So this is why people by $22/lb for those dirty little mushrooms! The morels and the steak went together like peanut butter and jelly, peaches and cream, white on rice, etc. And the sweet, crunchy carmelized leeks were the perfect complement to the richness of the morels and steak. And a cold, hoppy beer was the thing for washing down all of that heavy food.
So for our final night--and our final store of mushrooms--we decided to go with what we knew worked and fried up a pork rib-eye steak in a butter-and-white-wine sauce and topped it off with chanterelles sautéed in even more butter. I know they say "lightening never strikes twice" and all, but it did for me: a lot like in that movie Ratatouille when the rat/chef gets struck by lightening and discovers that cheese+mushrooms+rosemary+electricity=a flavor explosion. My pork and chanterelles were just about as good as the morels and steak, although I can hardly take credit for the recipe. They were another of the culinary combinations I brought back with me from Germany, where they go by the delightful name of "Pfefferlinge."
Turns out the secret to cooking wild mushrooms to perfection is just gobs and gobs of real butter. Of course, that might be the secret to cooking just about anything. Although I think Julia Child might have already spilled the beans on that little secret. And in case you're curious, we went through a whole pound of butter during our four-day culinary excursion. Now I'm going to go sit on my well-padded derierre and take a break--at least until I can buy more mushrooms at next week's farmers' market.
So how should I cook next week's mushrooms? I promise not to write about it ;)