Some years (like this year), fresh wild morels are so plentiful that we can indulge ourselves and eat to our hearts content. While there are already hundreds of recipes featuring the beloved morel, from simple, rustic folk dishes to haute cuisine, it’s great fun to experiment and come up with something a little different.
Stuffed mushroom caps are nothing new. But morels filled with a spicy mixture of crab meat, parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs and just-picked thyme? Ah, now, that’s something special.
- 20 fresh morel mushrooms
- ½ cup crab meat
- 1 ½ cups bread crumbs
- 2 small or 1 large rib of celery, thinly sliced
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 4 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water
- Louisiana hot sauce, 4 dashes or to taste
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1-2 Tbsp Madeira
- 1 Tbsp butter, melted
Cut the morels in half lengthwise to expose the hollow center. Prepare a large bowl of salted water by adding 2 Tbsp to a gallon of cold water and immerse the morels for about 40 minutes or up to 1 hour. Unlike many other mushrooms, morels do not readily soak up water. Wild morels come straight from the forest and their honeycomb structure can harbor grit and forest debris – not to mention the occasional creepy-crawly. The salted water is just the thing to convince any hitch hikers to move on.
Drain the morels, then rinse gently with cold water to flush away any remaining grit. Drain the morels again and lay them out on a tray lined with paper towels.
In a large bowl, combine the crabmeat, sliced celery, diced onion, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and thyme. Using a microplane grater or zester, finely grate the peel of one lemon and add it to the mixture. Personally, I prefer a microplane. The sharp little blades don’t dig deeply into the lemon rind, so you get just the aromatic peel – not the pithy white.
Beat the egg with the water and stir into the crabmeat mixture. Add the hot sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. The crabment mixture should be just moist enough to cling together when gently pressed into a spoon. If the mixture seems to dry, add a Tbsp or two of Madeira to moisten.
Brush the bottom of each morel half with a little of the melted butter and lay them out on a baking sheet. Scoop up a spoonful of the crabmeat mixture and press it firmly into the cavity of a morel half, mounding it up above the surface of the mushroom. Repeat with the remaining sliced morels until all have been filled and are laid out, slightly separated, on the baking sheet.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the crab-filled morel halves for about 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and the mushrooms are cooked through and tender.
Devour immediately. Try not to burn your mouth.
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