Morel Mushroom Hunting 101
Here are few tidbits that I (a novice hunter) have picked up from hanging out with the more experienced morel hunters.
- Start looking for morels in mid-May. Depending on how much rain/sun we get, the season could last into early June.
- Morels start popping up on the West side of the Tetons first, then start to appear in the Jackson Hole valley. They may be seen at the south end of the valley first.
- Look in wet, boggy areas along the Snake River, beneath cottonwood trees.
- If you find one morel, squat down and look around carefully. There are probably more that you overlooked.
- Take a kid with you. Being low to the ground and having sharp eyes is definitely an advantage.
- Morels like terrain that has been "disturbed", such as a burn, or an excavation site. Some forest fire burns have produced legendarily bountiful yet brief crops of morels.
- Practice good mushroom hunting etiquette. Don't hunt on private land (bad karma). Don't move in on another hunter's territory. Approach the terrain as if you were fishing the river; would you fish someone else's pool?
- Once you have bagged your wild mushrooms, take them home and inspect them. A true morel will have a hollow stem. Tap the stems to rid them of insects. If the mushrooms are very dirty, soak them briefly in cold salty water, and then gently dry with a towel. If they are not too dirty, brush them with a toothbrush or other soft brush, and place them on a rack to dry out. Store them on the rack for 2-3 days, then place them in a paper bag (not plastic) and keep at room temperature.
- The most successful morel mushroom hunters ending up having so many morels that they have to dry them. A standard food dehydrator works well, as does air drying on a rack for several days. Reconstitute in hot water prior to use.
For a printable version of the recipe, click on the file below it.
Morel Smothered Chicken
My morels were on the small side, perfect for cooking whole in a sauce. If yours are bigger, you may want to halve or quarter them. Dry them out a for a day or two first, too; they will soak up the sauce better.
This recipe calls for a small piece of preserved lemon rind, but some finely grated lemon rind will work just fine. I just love throwing preserved lemon into just about everything, and I happen to have a jar in my refrigerator at all times, so it's easy.
If you want to make Moroccan style preserved lemons of your very own, click here. They'll take about 3 weeks to pickle. If you want to buy some right now, go to the Aspens Market, they usually have a big jar of them in the deli case.
- 4 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
- 2 cups morel mushrooms, cleaned with a brush and tapped to remove any critters, or 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and thickly sliced
- 1 whole shallot, finely chopped
- 1/4 of a preserved lemon, rinsed of salt, flesh removed, and finely chopped, or the juice of 1 lemon + the finely grated zest
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 slice bacon, finely chopped
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/4 cup vermouth or dry white wine
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 sprigs of thyme, plus more for serving
- pinch of Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper