Morille, the Morel Mushroom. Morel mushrooms on French Menus. The Mushrooms of France V.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman


Morels in a farmers’ market.

La Morille – The Morel Mushroom
Morels are a family of tasty mushrooms with a decidedly different look to most other mushrooms.  Morels lack the gills and domed caps of many other mushrooms, but they all have white to ivory colored stems and a conical cap.  Dried morel caps that you may see in the market look tube-shaped, but that is part of the drying process and when rehydrated the conical cap returns. The morel’s taste and texture make them a French favorite; they will be served fresh from early spring through to the beginning of June.
Fresh, dried or frozen morels.
Now that a few members of the morel family have been cultivated farm all around the world are trying to producing mushrooms all year round. Nevertheless, it is still a work in progress and not enough product is reaching the markets to change the prices; however, that may change. On the wild side, each member of the morel family has its own short six to eight weeks of glory in France between late February and June.  The morel is providentially an easy mushroom to dry and so they may be on menus all year round. Some French chefs freeze morels and extend their "almost fresh" shelf life by a month or two.
Dried morels in the market.(The row in the center).
The short white stem seen on fresh morel mushroom
is removed before the cap is dried.
French chefs like wild mushrooms and wild herbs and most will have long-term contracts with "ramasseurs de champignons et herbes", professional wild mushroom, and wild herb gatherers. These professional gatherers know the exact season for each member of the morel family, as well as other mushrooms, herbs, fruits and more. They keep these places close to their chests in the well-concealed areas where they can expect wild mushrooms and herbs to appear every year. Importantly, they also know how to keep well away from the false morel and other "look-alike" mushrooms which can be poisonous.

Morels can grow quite large.
The morels on your French menu may be:

Veloutéd'Asperges Blanches aux Morilles Fraîches- A creamy white asparagus soup served with morel mushrooms. Veloutés are smooth velvety soups and were made from, at least originally, a sauce base; veloutés were one of  the five mother sauces of French cuisine
Émincé de Veau aux Morilles – Thin slices of veal served with morel mushrooms.
Filet de Féra du Léman aux Morilles, Risotto à l’Ail des Ours, Tomate  Confite  - A filet of the broad whitefish caught in Lake Leman (Lake Geneva) prepared with morel mushrooms.  The dish is accompanied by a risotto flavored with wild garlic and a tomato confit. The broad whitefish is a relative of salmon and trout and a very tasty fish. When this fish is on your menu in France it will come from a lake or a river, while outside of Europe they may be caught at sea. When this fish comes from Lake Leman, it is considered particularly tasty and so its provenance will be on the menu. The wild garlic in the risotto has a much lighter and delicate taste than cultivated garlic, but do ask the waiter as not all wild garlic plants will have read this post!  The tomato confit that accompanies this dish is made with tomatoes cooked very slowly until they reach the consistency of a tomato jam. 
Morel Mushrooms
and Tomato in Pinot Noir Reduction with Artichoke Pasta
Poêlée de Ris de Veau aux Morilles à la Crème, Jus au Porto. – Lightly fried veal sweetbreads served with creamed morel mushrooms and flavored with a port wine sauce.
Suprême de Chapon au Vin Jaune et Morilles – Boneless capon breast prepared with the yellow wine of the Jura and morel mushrooms. A capon is a cockerel, a rooster, that was castrated as a chick and they grow to 3 or 4 kilos and have very tender meat. The Vin Jaune, the yellow wine from the Jura is a very aromatic dessert wine; it will have been aged for a minimum of six years in oak barrels. The Vin Jaune is a very unique wine, apart from its preparation, taste, aroma, even its bottle shape and size is different to other French wines.

The season, in France, for Fresh Morels.
Outside of the late February to early June season when one member or another of the morel family may be collected fresh the morels on the menu will have been dried.  When dried morels are rehydrated, there is only a little change in the taste and texture, and for morel aficionados, any morel is better than none.
None of the members of the morel family has ever been truly cultivated, and there are nearly fifty members.  However, in Europe, only five or six morels grow abundantly and it this small number who reach the restaurants and markets in quantity. There are slight differences in taste and texture between the different family members but you will need a lot of exposure to tell the difference.
Nearly enough for breakfast
and Tomato in Pinot Noir Reduction with Artichoke Pasta
Dried morels are anywhere from 2.5cm (1”) to 5cm (2”) long, without the stem. Wild morels are often over 5cm, and some wild morels will be more than three times that length.
Gathering wild mushrooms.
If you gather wild morels in France be aware of the false morel that the uninformed can mistake for the real thing; false morels are poisonous! Every town and village in France have a trained mycologist, a mushroom expert and local pharmacists have these expert’s addresses. All mushrooms should be shown to these volunteer experts before being eaten, and, in any case, all morels must be cooked.
 The Mushroom Gatherers
Painting by Henry Herbert La Thangue (1859 – 1929)

Morels in the languages of France's neighbors:

 (Catalan -  múrgola, rabassola or morilla), (Dutch -  morieljes), (German – morchel or  speisemorchel),  (Italian -  spugnola or pugnola conica), (Spanish - morilla, mazorquita, mazorca or pancita), 

Morels in other the languages:

Chinese ((Mandarin) –(植物;植物), 牛肚菌;龙葵).   (Greek -  morel μανιτάρια), (Hebrew - metzulak  -    מצולק),  (Hungarian -  kucsmagomba gomba),(Norwegian   - morkler ), (Polish - morel grzybyRumanian – zbârciog),   (Russian - smorchki griby     - сморчки грибы),  (Swedish - morel svamp),(Tutkish - kuzu göbeği; ) (Latin- morchella conica, morchella esculenta and 50 more family members).


Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman


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