Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fried Morels Tempura Style

Each of the last few years, I’ve managed to try something new with the lovely, nutty, delicious morel mushrooms I manage to get my hands on. Usually, I try to do something that features them rather than just includes them. One year it was a rustic pie with sour cream and thyme and what has become my favorite easy pastry crust. Last year it was pasta with browned butter. Both of those dishes have relatively simple flavors that allow the unique taste of the mushrooms to be the big deal.

This year, I didn’t mess around. Well, I made a mess, but I didn’t add anything to my morels but a very simple tempura-style batter and a hot bath of frying oil. This resulted in what I now think is the ultimate fried mushroom. The breading turned out extra crisp and the flavor was all morel mushroom. Earthy, nutty, unique and elusive morel mushroom.

I based this recipe on the one I use with squash flowers, but I simplified it by leaving out the egg. I didn’t want any heaviness or extra flavor to hide the delicate mushrooms. Using club soda in the batter makes it light and puffy and crisp. I think you could use beer in place of the club soda, but I would use a crisp, lightly-flavored one so the taste of the beer doesn’t overwhelm the subtle flavor of the morel. Speaking of beer, my husband said these go fabulously alongside a nice cold one.

I think it’s really important to feature the morel as much as possible no matter how you use it. I didn’t even make a dipping sauce for these. If you love morels, they don’t need so much gussying up. Like Christmas and Mardi Gras, they only come once a year. One must capitalize on this seasonal bounty with appropriate gusto! Of course, as caloric as these fried mushrooms are, it’s probably a good thing that the forests and markets aren’t stuffed with morels year round. Something this fabulously delicious would get me into sooooo much trouble.


Batter Fried Morel Mushrooms

If you have a lot of mushrooms, I think you could double the batter recipe.

You could use beer in place of the club soda, but be careful to choose one that does not overwhelm the delicate flavor of the morels.

about 12-15 small morel mushrooms or mushroom halves
canola or vegetable oil for frying
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for sprinkling if desired
scant ½ cup club soda, plus more if needed

1. Clean the mushrooms very well, including the insides. Cut larger mushrooms into halves or quarters. Allow to dry thoroughly.

2. Pour the oil into a large cast iron or other skillet to a depth of about 2 inches. Heat over about medium heat until hot (about 350-375 F). (A dab of batter placed in the oil should sizzle vigorously.)

3. In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the club soda and whisk until smooth. Add more club soda if needed to make a smooth batter that is easy to dip the mushrooms in.

4. Dip or dredge the mushrooms or mushroom halves in the batter to coat and carefully place them in the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan but fry in batches if necessary. Fry until golden brown on one side, just a few minutes. Be extra cautious. I found these to spatter quite a bit. Turn the mushrooms (I use a pair of tongs) over and fry on the other side until browned.

5. Remove from the oil and drain well on paper towels. Sprinkle with additional salt if desired.

Makes about 12-15 appetizer bites or 3-4 servings.          

One year ago: Rye Pie Crust Dough

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