Morels in the mountains

There is a magic mushroom that only appears during this time of year known as the Morel. They have a quite a few nicknames such as hickory chickens or dry land fish here in Kentucky. West Virginians refer to them as Molly Moochers. Whatever you call them, make sure you also add that they are delicious. A very distinctive fungi, with a spongy honeycomb-like appearance that is widely hunted for it’s unique taste, is currently in season. The morel can camouflage to tones of tan, gray, and brown along with decaying leaves or the forest floor making it difficult to find. Being a delicacy in French cooking, and fetching top dollar for a yield, also turkey and deer love this treat and you gotta beat them to it.

Each year I make a few trips into the woods for this elusive mushroom. My husband doesn’t care for them, but enjoys the hunt. Even my Uncle Chuck with his declining health still hits the mountains with his friends combing every nook and cranny of the vast hillside but always finding some of the largest morels I have ever seen, some nearly the size of a can of pop! I recently took my mother in law on her first hunt and luckily I found a few making it worth climbing the steep ridges in the woods behind her house.

What’s intriguing about the morel is some say that depending upon how you prepare it depends on its flavoring, thus “hickory chicken” versus  “dry land fish”.  I encourage you to get out and enjoy the hunt as the temperatures rise, the morels dry out and disappear until spring of next year. This is a basic recipe for hickory chickens. I hope you try this tastey mushroom and take part in mountain tradition. Happy Hunting! If you have a recipe you would like to share, email kdcole1120@gmail.com.

Hickory Chickens

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 large egg

1-2 tbsp milk or buttermilk

Directions:

Thoroughly wash morels and place in bowl of water, add 1/2-1 tsp salt and allow to soak overnight. Wash morels again, pat dry. Prepare flour in medium dish, set aside. Beat egg, add milk, wisk together in separate dish. Roll morel in egg wash then in flour, repeat. Egg/flour morels like you are going to fry chicken. In large cast iron skillet, fill half inch deep oil, on medium heat. Drop coated morels one by one and fry til golden brown in batches, remove, place on paper towels to absorb excess oils. Salt and pepper to taste if needed, can serve with ranch dressing or ketchup. The taste is similar to chicken but I have always been told by adding cornmeal to flour mixture changes the texture and gives a more fish like taste. I’ve tried both styles, both are equally good.