It's Maaayyyyyyy! And you know what that means. MOREL MUSHROOM HUNTING! And eating. Duh. Can I confess something, though? I know, I know, it's my family's favorite way to eat morels, but I have never much cared for them battered and pan fried. I will hunt for hours in the woods for them just for the fun of it, but probably will pass if they're fried.
I've hunted for morel mushrooms with my family for as long as I can remember, but apparently it's not as common outside of the mitten and non-Michiganders sometimes think we're crazy. (Except for you, Madeline, you're in the morel club now! And you know all our "secret" spots. Shh. don't tell.) So in case you're wondering what it might look like to hunt morels, I've provided ample photos. There are two main types, that I know of anyway, black and white. The season for blacks is just before the white, usually end of April to mid May, and the whites start mid May to the end of May, depending on the weather. After you pick the mushrooms it's best to soak them in salt water for a bit to clean them and evict any bugs. After the soaking my mom would always throw out the water, ya know with all the mushroom spores in it, all over our woods in the hope that they would grow. That never happened. In a different area of the woods, however, my brother JohnPaul once discovered that there were some white morels growing! Every year after that, we would stake out all the white morels in that area, putting marker sticks by them as we waited to see how big they would get, adding canned goods next to the 'shrooms at the end for size reference in photos. Ok so we're a little weird.
Last year I decided to take the 'shrooms into my own hands. We found TONS in a place I won't tell you, so I had extras to experiment with. And these phyllo pies, my friends, turned out to be an absolutely delightful way to eat morels. This recipe is all about the filling, the delicious, flavorful, aromatic filling. Phyllo plays an important part, of course, it is the vessel that transports all these lovely mushrooms, leeks, and cheese to your mouth, but I'm going to tell you to buy phyllo from the store. I've never made phyllo and don't have plans to. Ain't nobody got time for that! I think it's pretty universally respected that, phyllo dough is something you buy. To you die hards out there that make it at home, my hat is off to you. In the meantime, I'm going to stroll over to my freezer and pull out some phyllo. Whew, hard work.
Recipe adapted from Drizzle and Dip
Leek and Morel Mushroom Phyllo Pies
Makes about 12 pies
2 Tbsp / 28g oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 medium store-bought or about 12 wild leeks (about 3 cups / 270g), finely chopped
1 shallot or 1/2 small onion, diced
4 Tbsp / 56g butter
about 5 cups / 375g chopped morel mushrooms
1/4 cup / 60g milk
1/2 cup / 65g grated parmesan cheese
phyllo pastry sheets, about 8, thawed
melted butter or olive oil for brushing phyllo dough
Oven 350°F / 177°C. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
In a large saucepan, heat the oil.
Add garlic, leeks, and onion and sauté until tender onions are translucent and garlic fragrant.
Add butter and mushrooms and cook until the liquid that is released from the mushrooms has mostly evaporated, then add milk and cook until the mixture is thick, just a few minutes.
Remove from the heat and add cheese, mixing just until melted. Allow to cool slightly while you prepare the phyllo dough.
Remove the phyllo pastry from the plastic, unroll, and set aside the first two sheets to work with; cover the remaining sheets with a slightly damp cloth to prevent them from drying out and becoming brittle.
Working quickly so the sheets don't dry out, brush the top side of one sheet with a bit of butter or oil and lay the second sheet on top. Cut the layered sheets lengthwise in thirds, so you will know have 3 long strips.
Now for the fun "flipping" part. See photo above for reference. Working with the first strip, spoon a small amount of the filling in the corner. Take that corner and fold it down until the tip reaches the opposite side; the filling should now be covered. Next flip it straight down, the top should be level again. Fold again, taking the filled corner to the opposite side. The dough should be kept taught through all this, but not so taught it rips. Continue flipping/folding until the end of the strip. Use a dab of butter or oil to stick the end of the strip to the pie. Place on the pan, tucked side down, and repeat until all the filling or all the phyllo pastry has been used up. Wrap any remaining phyllo tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until next use.
Brush the tops of the pies with butter or oil and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden.
Don't have morels? Use any kind of mushroom you like! Likewise, you can also use any good melting cheese you prefer: gruyere, cheddar, asiago, raclette, etc. etc.
If you prefer smaller pies, cut the phyllo dough into 4 strips lengthwise instead of 3.
Have you ever gone morel mushroom hunting? Tell me about your adventures in the comments below! :)