Morel Mushroom Hunting

On Saturday, we packed up the pooches and went on a gloriously sunny road trip to Klickitat, Washington to go morel mushroom hunting on our friend's property.  Morel mushrooms are culinary treasure and they aren't cheap.  I discovered why after hiking around looking for them; they are difficult to spot on the forest floor.
Can you see the two morel mushrooms?
The morel mushrooms are definitely worth the hunt because they taste rich and earthy with a delicate nut like flavor. In short, sublime.  This was my first time finding morel mushrooms and I felt lucky to have a friend help show me the ropes.  We cut them off the ground with a gold pocket knife, so they will produce again next year.  The Assistant and Barnaby ran around us enjoying their freedom, the beautiful day, and the occasional pellet of deer scat.

My Pirate found the largest morel mushroom of the hunt.  Nice job!
We brought home four ounces of morel mushrooms and I felt rich and happy.  I wanted to extend the pleasure of fresh morel mushrooms through the next six months, so I made a compound morel herb butter and placed it in the freezer. This is another one of my favorite secret ingredients and recipes.  I add slices of morel herb butter to resting steaks, grilled chicken, crostini, pasta, rice and even under the skin of a roasted turkey.  I keep it on hand and use it whenever inspiration strikes. You really need to try this.  Now, you may not want to splurge on morels, but you can substitute your favorite mushrooms, or even on a small black truffle.  
Morel Herb Butter
by Laura Heldreth

2 ounces of morel mushrooms, washed and minced--or substitute your favorite mushrooms
1 stick of good unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1 sprig of thyme
5 sprigs of parsley, minced--or as much as you like
one pinch of salt 
tiny pinch of red cayenne
squeeze of lemon juice

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat with a smashed garlic clove in it and then add the mushrooms and sprig of thyme. Add the salt, red cayenne, and pepper. Cook for 3 minutes or until the morels are tender.  Mine took three minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in the parsley and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  I prefer my compound butter to border on too salty. 

Pour the butter mixture into a bowl and refrigerate until it stiffens up a bit.  Then tear off a piece of parchment paper, spoon the butter mixture on it, and press it into a roll.  Then freeze.  Later, wrap the parchment wrapped butter in plastic wrap and foil or in a freezer container.  Cut slices off it as you need it.  Common wisdom says to use it up in 3 months, but I have kept it up to 6 months if I successfully hide it from My Pirate.  (A spinach bag in the freezer makes great camouflage for treasures like morel herb butter.)