In true Northern Virginia fashion, it appears that Mother Nature has once again overlooked quintessential spring as a season and has taken us straight to summer. I can tell because I’ve been breaking out my much larger than necessary (and still growing) collection of muscles tanks and now, after I spend about 5 minutes outside, my already fluffy hair just about doubles in volume. I love every bit of it.
Despite the weather though, it still very much looks like spring at the farmers market. Local asparagus, so tender it probably doesn’t even need to be cooked, still remains and I bought the first of the strawberries just today. They are small crimson jewels with concentrated sweetness in every creamy bite. Honeysuckle and autumn olive trees are blooming along the bike path where I run, filling the dewy morning with sweet perfume and the muffled sounds of the earth waking up to the early light.
So much of this brings childhood memories flooding back. It takes me to mornings helping my dad in the garden or learning from him about keeping bees and to weekends spent with triple-header softball games. It spurs memories of strawberry shortcake for dinner and walking through the woods in the backyard playing a game I dubbed “Hakin’ Breakin’” which involved whacking thin low-hanging branches off trees with large sticks… I had to do something to entertain myself. And it brings back memories of a rare and special treat: fried morel mushrooms.
My dad has always had a knack for finding them despite the fact that they are only around for about 1 week out of the year. He spots them first during an early morning of turkey hunting after a period of rain and then goes on a foraging frenzy, harvesting enough for several days of indulgent fried mushroom feasting. We prepare them by dredging the halved mushrooms in flour, then egg, and finally saltine cracker crumbs before frying them in a ridiculous amount of butter. All they need after than is a healthy dose of flaky salt and are best eaten standing around the counter and shoveling them down while still crispy and hot.
So when my dad brought be the last of this year’s batch of mushrooms to me today, I jumped on the chance to make one of my favorite things for my roommates and I. They were gone in 5 minutes.
Butter Fried Morel Mushrooms
12-15 Morel Mushrooms, halved lengthwise
1 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper
2 eggs beaten with a little bit of water
1 sleeve of saltine crackers, pulverized into dust
6 Tbs butter + 2 Tbs olive oil
Start by prepping all of the ingredients and getting a nice assembly line prepared. Submerge the mushrooms in a bowl of cool water to remove any bugs or dirt and let drain on some paper towels until dry. Once dry dust all of the mushrooms in the flour so they are lightly coated. Then, taking one mushroom at a time, dip it in the egg until fully covered and then coat it in the cracker crumbs. Set on a plate until all of the mushrooms have the cracker coating.
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Once heated, add the mushrooms to the pan. When they are golden brown flip them with tongs until brown and crispy on the other side. Once all of the butter is absorbed and the mushrooms are brown all over, tip them onto a serving dish, sprinkle with lots of flaky salt, and eat as fast as you can.