Morel Rangoons (cheese puffs)

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, I’m on a mission to try and create new and interesting recipes for mushrooms and other wild edibles that don’t involve frying. I started using the hashtag #morethanjustfried (I’m not expecting it to take off). Sometimes I am inspired by the edible, sometimes it’s people, and sometimes it strikes from out of the blue. This time, it was a combination of those things.

I very recently met Larry Evans from Fungal Jungal.  He works out of Montana and has a website where he sells dried morels at one ounce for $10, with shipping.  If you are feeling frisky, he sells one pound bags of dried morels for $130. I’m just going to warn you that you shouldn’t try to view the website on your phone; select the desktop version.   You have to go to his shop section and download an order form, which you then email back; he takes PayPal. That’s the knife, below.

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Larry was the guest speaker at a Missouri Mycological Society foray a month ago, where I bought an assortment of mushroom related items, including a T-shirt, an awesome mushroom knife, dried morels (they were Montana burn morels and WOW!!! What a flavor!!) and some mushroom infused salts. The last bit was terribly clever.  I bought morel, bolete and lobster salts. I’d like to see him up his game on his packaging, but he’s a busy man.

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I am not normally an avid morel hunter, as I have discussed previously, but this year we became empty nesters and find that we have all sorts of time (and money) that we didn’t really have before, so we have been doing more of it and attending more events.   Larry’s dried mushrooms are really an excellent option for me.  I can buy them, and use them throughout the year, at my leisure. The flavored salts are also pretty fantastic!

We are purposefully making an effort to not directly fry any mushrooms.  Actually, trying to get away from frying completely, but I don’t think that rangoons will bake. I might try it some time, like toasted raviolis (I’m from St. Louis, if you looked at the words “toasted” and “ravioli” together and said “WWHHHHAT?” all I can suggest is google it. It is an amazing appetizer here) to see if they will work without the frying, but I’m not there yet.

I have made rangoons before using hericiums, and found that to be an excellent usage for that mushroom.  I thought this time I might make them with morels. If you are one of those “morels are ONLY fried in butter!!” people, you might want to close the browser and don’t you dare chastise me below: you won’t like what I have to say. Also, I’m an amazon, calling me “little missy” makes you look like a moron.

The first thing I did was put about half an ounce of dried morels in a small bowl with about a cup of warm water to rehydrate.   These dried morels are NOT like other dried morels I have had. First of all, they had a very strong scent that was slightly smoky.   I have never smelled a dried mushroom with that strong of an aroma. It only got stronger as they rehydrated.  The photo is actually from another recipe, but I didn’t think to take a picture the first time around. See how dark they are?

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While they were returning to their former glory, I put my cast iron skillet on and finely diced half an onion.  Once the skillet came to temperature, I put about 2 tablespoons of a good quality extra virgin olive oil. It had a wonderful fruity aroma, and while not table quality, was a pretty good olive oil. Don’t cheat yourself and use cheap oil. It’s not worth it.

The reason I used olive oil is that I’m trying to get away from butter.  I don’t like the greasy film it leaves on food, its loaded with unnecessary calories and it causes gastric distress in some people.  I’ve changed a number of my cooking habits recently to help reduce gastric problems; including sweating any alliums I cook to make sure they don’t cause indigestion.   I will sauté onions and garlic for a minute or two, then add enough water to make sure everything is swimming nicely and add salt, then cook then within an inch of their lives. It makes a difference.

Since I have the wonderful morel salt, that is what I used for this recipe, and I let it cook down until most of the water was gone and the onions had begun to caramelize.

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While the onions were thinking about what they dead done, I turned my attention to the morels. The water was a dark rich brown with the spores. I sliced them into rings and then shopped the rings, It seems to give a better mouth feel, and considering the recipe I was making, It seemed like a good idea to get them small, but still substantial enough to.. for lack of a better concept, al dente. I wanted to be able to discern them in the bites, but not be too large to bite cleanly.  Once I got them all chopped, I put them in with the onions and garlic and added the water that was left from rehydrating them.

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I gave them a few minutes to make sure everything was cooked through. Then (ok, morel butter Nazis, here it comes) I added two tubs of whipped cream cheese.  Done screaming yet?  No?  Let it out.  It’s going to be ok, I promise.  You made it through the olive oil, you will get through this.   All cried out now?  Ok, let’s move on.   I turned the heat off. I didn’t need to cook it anymore; I just needed to make sure it was entirely incorporated. It was still pretty hot, so it mixed well and quickly.

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While being warm was a great thing to get it mixed, it was definitely ixnay otenhay for making rangoons.   I scooped it back into the cream cheese tubs. If you are wondering why I used whipped, it is because if you use regular cream cheese, even softened, it bashes the shit out of the mushrooms; it’s a mouth feel consideration. If you feel like bringing garden variety cream cheese to room temperature and then whipping it, knock yourself out.  I mean, not LITERALLY, of course. I mean, unless you really want to. That would be weird… but I’m not judging! {freak}

While they were cooling, I got out an aluminum half sheet pan. They key to working with wanton wrappers is keeping them cold and dry.  Once the filling had cooled enough, my husband and I worked together to get them filled and closed. He has a bit of a heavy hand so some of the early ones were sumo rangoons (eh, eh? See what I did there?  Mixed Asian cultures all willy nilly? Before you berate me.. fortune cookies were born in San Francisco. Also, honeybadger) but he got into a pretty good rhythm.

We would alternate between laying the wantons out, filling them and then sealing. You get your finger wet and wet the edges in a V formation. I said chevron before and my daughter gave me a huge ration of shit. So I’ll call it a V now.  Once you get it sealed into a little triangle, you fold the outside edges up.

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We took them to the Missouri Mycological Society Morel Madness event, as chilled wantons. By this point I had several crotchety paternalistic old grumps go off on me (and send me creepy private messages) in several Facebook groups about how I had ruined the morels with this recipe and that I had turned them into garbage. So now I’m going to a mushroom hunting group, whom I know from past experiences is full of foodies. I steeled myself.

A few people sounded skeptical when I mentioned what I was going to make, but that was about it. I went into the kitchen, fried them up (80 of them, a whole pack of wrappers) and put them out on the appetizer table; four feet by four feet of mushroom related appetizers with my friend morel rangoons looking totally out of place.

I was hot, sticky and gross, so I went to take a shower.  I was gone about 20 minutes and was thinking on the way back that I hadn’t gotten a photo of the finished good. Imagine my surprise when there was *ONE* left.  A steady stream of folks came by to compliment me, including the folks who looked skeptical. I take that as high praise!

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They were a total hit. While they were technically fried, I’m going to say these fall into the #morethanjustfried challenge because they weren’t mushrooms that were fried, they were mushroom filled objects that were fried.   Overall, a success! I hope you try it!

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