Saturday, May 10, 2014
Morille, the Morel Mushroom. Morel mushrooms on French Menus. The Mushrooms of France V.
Behind the French Menu
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.
Morille blonde (morchella rotunda).
Photograph courtesy of Cristophe Quintin.
Fresh, dried or frozen morels.
Not a single member of the morel family has ever been truly cultivated and producing mushrooms all year round; each member of the morel family has its own short six to eight weeks of glory 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 Fresh chefs freeze morels and extend their "almost fresh" shelf life by a month or two.
Dried morels in the market.
The short white stem seen on fresh morel mushroom is removed before the cap is dried.
Photograph courtesy of Dick Sijtsma
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 and more, and they keep close to their chests 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.
A large sized morel.
Photograph courtesy of Brian (Ziggy) Liloia.
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. For more about confits on French menus see the post: What is a Confit? All About That Confit on Your French Menu
Morels and pasta with butter.
Photograph courtesy of Shaw Girl
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 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.
Fresh morel mushrooms.
Photograph courtesy of Le Piment.
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.
Morels in other languages:
Chinese ((Mandarin) –(植物；植物), 牛肚菌；龙葵). (Dutch - morieljes), German – morchel or speisemorchel), (Greek - morel μανιτάρια), (Hebrew - metzulak - מצולק), (Hungarian - kucsmagomba gomba), (Italian - spugnola or pugnola conica), (Norwegian - morkler ), (Polish - morel grzybyRumanian – zbârciog), (Russian - smorchki griby - сморчки грибы), (Spanish - morilla, mazorquita, mazorca or pancita), (Swedish - morel svamp),(Tutkish - kuzu göbeği; ) (Latin - morchella conica, morchella esculenta and 50 more family members.
Fresh Morels in the market.
Fresh Morels in the market. Photograph courtesy of by Kirk K
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 has 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)
Other posts on mushrooms in France:
Chanterelle Mushrooms. The Most Famous Four. Chanterelle Mushrooms on French Menus. The Mushrooms of France IV
Posts connected to the menu listings above:
The Féra, Fera or Palée du Léman, The Broad Whitefish - Seeking out France’s Tastiest Freshwater Fish.
Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2014.
For more about the unpublished book behind this blog email Bryan Newman