May 18, 2007

A Sight to Behold

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Living where I do is both a blessing and a curse. There aren’t very many restaurants, there’s no where to find sushi and if you’re looking for high quality chocolate or butter, forget about it. On the other hand, being surrounded by nature does have its benefits. I’m woken up in the morning by the sound of birds chirping instead of car horns honking. I have a large garden and instead of going to a store to buy leeks or fiddleheads, I can go pick my own in the wild. It’s meals like the one you see here that make me glad I live where I do: Asparagus picked fresh from the garden, morels from under the apple trees and wild leeks picked just down the road. It’s hard to make those three items any more tasty than they already are, but if I’ve taught you anything at all it should be that (homemade) bacon makes everything better! I started by frying up a few slices of bacon and then removing them from the pan. Don’t ever throw away bacon grease! That’s flavour country right there. I fried the morels and leeks in the bacon grease while quickly blanching the asparagus and before adding it to the frying pan too. A squeeze of lemon was all I needed to finish things off, (clearly, I added the bacon back in at the end as well). To make this a complete meal, I also bbq’d some pork tenderloin, sliced it and smeared it with apple butter.


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It’s the morels that I like the best about this dish. Just the smell of them evokes a sense of nostalgia. Ever since I was a young pup, still wet behind the ears, springtime meant morel searching time with my family in all of our known morel finding spots, (top secret of course). If you’ve never had the pleasure of morel hunting, I should warn you, it’s a bit of a tricky business and there’s protocol to follow. First you’ll need a morel finding stick. This could pretty much be any stick you pick up off the ground, so long as when you do so, you also spot a morel. From that point on you’ll have to carry your morel stick around and announce things like “the stick’s pulling me in this direction, the morels must be over here!” It’s also always a contest to see who can find the first morel. When it’s found, the morel hunter doesn’t pick it immediately but instead proudly calls out to everyone else that they’re the winner. Then everyone will gather around and try to find the morel for themselves. You never wanted to be the last person to see the morel as that clearly demonstrates your inferior morel finding skills. Once everyone has seen it, the morel would have to be cut at the base, you never pull them out of the ground. In my family, Dad would take out his silver pocket knife and hand it over to the winner to ceremoniously cut the first morel. The beautiful little fungus would then be passed around for everyone to inhale its wonderfully earthy fragrance. It was believed that once you had the scent of the morel, you could find more of them. I remember years where we would find dozens of them everyday and would subsequently enjoy feasts of morels. We had so many morels that we would dry them in the sun on the deck and store them in a big glass jar to be used all year round. This year however, the weather has been less than ideal for morel growing and we haven’t found very many. During a period of morel shortage such as this one, every morel is precious and I make sure to savour each delicious bite.


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19 comments:

Gattina said...

I'm not sure if I have ever tasted morels... anyway, your morel hunting is totally fascinating! Also sound like a kind of elite exclusive group :P, I only can look behind a gate :P

K & S said...

What a wonderful place you live in! All the veggies, yum! I don't think I've had morels either, but they sound great!

breadchick said...

Bri, you have managed to put four of my favourite foods on one plate. I am salivating thinking about that dish. My folks in N. Michigan told me their morel season hasn't been great either (they only had 4 under their special morel tree this year instead of the basket full they normally have). The poor folks in Boyne, MI had to import farmed morels in for the first time ever for the National Morel Festival this year :-( As usual, you have found another great way to use bacon!

Lydia said...

You are soooo lucky to have morels! I find them on the edge of my woods every other year or so, but this year I didn't see a single mushroom (except the scary red kind). Asparagus and morels -- doesn't get any better than that!

Patricia Scarpin said...

I have never had morels or wild leeks, but your dish looks damn good, Brilynn!

Claudia said...

YUM!! I want to live near you! I love morels and have never lived anywhere you could pick them yourself. Likewise Chanterelles. Sigh, and there aren't any in NM (where we're headed eventually) either. Lucky you!

Little Foodie said...

As usual this sounds wonderful.Wild mushrooms are the best, along with most other food I suspect. We're picking up the pork belly tomorrow to start our bacon making. Wish us luck. Amanda

Inne said...

That looks so amazing and yummy! You're lucky to have all that fresh produce on your doorstep - I bet it tastes a million times better than supermarket stuff as well. Thanks for sharing hte story of such a lovely family tradition.
And you're absolutely right, bacon does make (almost) everything taste better. My grandad used to keep the greased pan for frying a slice of bread in, and ate that with light brown sugar...

Rose said...

In Michigan, we do have morels hunting too during the month of Mai but I have never been to one of them.

Kelly-Jane said...

That looks really good.

I've never seen wild leeks before, do they taste much different to the big green and white ones? It must be a real pleasure to smell and cook with fresh morels too.

Freya and Paul said...

I love your reminiscences about morels - you are so lucky, they just don't grown around here! And the finished dish looks great!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Wow, that is all perfect! Such wonderful morel stories and memories! A terrific family! Apple butter on a pork loin - that I'll be remembering!

Lis said...

That dinner sounds fabulous! Better than fabulous actually.

I've never had a morel.. will have to find some soon!

xoxo

Helen said...

I would dance and twirl for some fresh morels right now...some garlic, parsley and a dash of cream...What time is dinner next time?

Ellie said...

You can have my sushi. Seriously. I am SO jealous of your access to these wonderful home-grown/made products!

sandi @ the whistlestop cafe said...

I love asparagus, any way you cook it. This looks awesome!

Elle said...

Fantastic writing Bri. How lucky you are in the wild things. That dish sounds like the essence of spring. Mmmm.

SteamyKitchen said...

WOW. You totally amaze me. I love it when cooks grow their own vegetables - take the time to really savor the earth. I'll have to find out where you live, sneak in and pick some morels!

SteamyKitchen said...

ok, that sounded a little stalker-ish.