Linguine with Morel Cream Sauce
Morels are one of the most delicious and least available ingredients out there. They are seasonal and fickle, with a brief season most years, but are undoubtedly one of the most glorious finds for the beginner mushroom hunter.
The five oft suggested starter mushrooms, for folks interested in getting into mycological foraging, are: morels, boletes, oysters, chanterelles, and chicken of the woods. Of these, morels may be the easiest to identify. They have a very recognizable morphology, with hollow stems and a top that looks like a close-up photo of a sponge, and there are no dangerous lookalikes. The most common lookalikes include gyromitra and verpa species, but these are also edible and should be handled just like morels (cooked thoroughly).
I am far from the most talented mushroom hunter out there, so it was a real treat when an old fire buddy texted me the coordinates to his morel honey hole. He saw via social media that we had arrived in central Oregon, and wasted no time in putting us on the trail to some good eats. We drove the bus up into the forest, spent the night, and he joined us the next morning to forage.
In a couple of hours we found around two and a half pounds of morels, with a good mixture of black and blonde. The week prior he had been up in that same spot, and he and his wife went home with so many black morels that they had to buy a dehydrator to keep their haul from spoiling. By the time we got up there, many of the black morels we found were past their prime, but it seemed that the blondes were swooping in to fill the gap.
In exchange for his help, we wanted to cook up something really nice for Brian and his wife. Morels have a delicious, earthy, nutty flavor, that loves butter and cream. The recipe below is what I cooked for them, linguine with a morel cream sauce. It is a relatively simple dish, but one that allows you to stretch the flavor of even a small haul of morels into an incredible meal for the whole family.
Linguine with Morel Cream Sauce
1 lb. linguine
8 oz. morels, diced
2 tbsp butter
½ yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp flour
1 cup cream
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp white wine vinegar
Salt, to taste
Cook the linguine in plenty of well-salted water until al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, make your cream sauce. Begin by melting the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Then add the onions, morels, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are softened, the morels look cooked, and the kitchen is wonderfully fragrant.
Add the flour and mix well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes, until the flour begins to brown at the edges.
Heat your broth and cream, and add these to the pan. Reduce heat to medium. Stir to incorporate and make your sauce. Stir in the parsley and cook for a couple more minutes to reduce the sauce to the perfect consistency, remembering that it will thicken as it cools. Remove from heat, add salt to taste, and stir in the white wine vinegar.
Serve a nice plate of linguine topped with a good scoop of the cream sauce. Garnish with fresh black pepper, additional chopped parsley, and grated parmesan, if you’d like.