Tempura Battered Morels and Dandelions
Honestly, I've been hunting morels for almost a decade now, with more and more success just about every year. I end up with a lot of dried morels most of which I cut in half prior to drying to facilitate the evaporative process for the mushrooms. Fresh ones, I usually just sautee in garlic and butter, give away, or occasionally stuff because that's something you can't (or can you?) do with a dried morel.
This year I decided to do something I have not yet done with whole fresh morels: make some tempura batter, dip them in it whole, and deep fry them. They were fantastic! Some people may turn their nose up at deep frying morels--and I understand why. Typically, deep frying is a way of turning something that is mediocre on its own, say a potato or an onion, for example, into something delicious. Some would argue it masks the flavor of the base food. I wouldn't be surprised if I myself have made this argument in the past! Well, now that I have tried tempura battered whole morels (I did it with morels that were on the smaller side, so you can pop them like a fried cheese curd), it will absolutely be an annual tradition. They're simply fantastic. Oh, and had enough extra batter and dandelions on hand (as if they're hard to come by) that I figured I'd have some floured flower fritters as well. These were also very good, with a slight sweetness to them.
Whole morels--make sure they are very clean, ideally you can tell there's nothing inside them, and I recommend using morels no more than 2" tall
Dandelion flowers, try to find the plumpest ones you can and pick them within an hour or two of eating--kept out in the open exposed to light so the flowers don't close up on you
16 oz high heat oil - canola, grapeseed, sesame, etc.
1 c rice flour, sifted if necessary
1 c ice cold water
pinch of salt
pinch of smoked paprika
Fill large cast iron pan up about an inch with oil and put on high heat.
Whisk egg in a medium mixing bowl. Add ice water and whisk until smooth and consistent. Slowly whisk in flour. Once fully incorporated, add pinch of salt and smoked paprika and mix those in. Batter should be a little thicker in consistency than a pancake batter.
Once oil is at about 350 degrees F, take your morels and by hand mix them in the batter, ensuring each one is well coated on all sides. Carefully but quickly drop them into the hot oil and fry on one side until you can see the submerged edges starting to become golden. Then turn. While they are cooking, line bowl or basket with paper towels or thin cloth. Once morels are a nice golden tan, using a slotted spoon or basket scoop to remove morels. Allow to drip for a moment and then place into cloth lined basket. Repeat with dandelion heads.
Enjoy with some ranch or I mixed some fermented chili sauce with mayo for a spicy aioli action that was amazing. For the dandelions, I recommend drizzling with honey or a chili honey if you've got it.