You can keep your asparagus, and your peas, and whatever other green thing you're excited about right now, as I am pretty much only here for morels: The frilly, tasty little mushroom morsels.
Photos by Claire Lower.
Morels are wild mushrooms, and like most wild things, they tend to be a little dirty. Some people take a very gentle approach and give their morels a good brushing, but I take a slightly wetter route. Though brushes are perfect for getting dirt off your 'shrooms (and shoulders), they aren't that great at removing worms, and it's the worms I'm worried about.
I SEE YOU
Luckily, getting rid of the little stowaways is quite easy. To ensure your morels are even cleaner than your morals, simply follow these easy steps:
Step 1: The Visual Inspection
Wormsign, the likes of which even God has never seen.
This step really starts in the bush (if you're foraging) or the store (if you're not). Look at each morel closely, and leave behind any that are soft and mushy. Don't worry about worms, as there will always be worms, but you will thwart them, my friend. If you see a patch of fuzzy white stuff in one of the 'shroomy crevices, don't worry about that either, as it isn't mould but the sign of a worm. (See above photo for visual.)
Step 2: Dunk, Swish and Dry
Once you are ready to cook and eat them, get a bowl of cool, clean water, dump the morels in there, and swish 'em around for about 10 seconds. The dirt and — more importantly — worms will fall away. (If you are concerned about your precious morels getting waterlogged, do not be. We're just giving them a quick swish, not soaking them, and the amount of water they absorb will be negligible. If you don't trust me, trust Alton.)
See you in hell.
Lift the morels from the bowl and place them on a kitchen towel or paper towels. Don't dump them in a colander, because then you'll have a colander full of mushrooms and worms, and we'll be right back where we started.
Step 3: Cook or Cut, and Then Cook
If you're extremely concerned about the cleanliness and purity of your morels, you can cut them in half (vertically) just to make sure you are 100 per cent worm-free. I did this with mine and found one squirmy little jerk hanging out (you can see him in the photo below).
How daaaaare you?
If you would like to keep your morels whole, you are certainly welcome to do so, but I would trim off any woody edges from the stem first. From there, you can pretty much cook them like any other mushroom, though I usually just sauté them in a bit of ghee until they have given up most of their liquid, then throw in some butter to finish them and get 'em nice and crispy on the edges. You can also get very Midwest about it and coat them in saltine crumbs before frying them. Both are good options.