Story last updated at 7:55 PM on Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Morel mushrooms among Alaska's many riches

Alaska offers many riches in addition to being a feast for the eyes. We unearth gold and oil from the subsurface of the great land, catch the bounty of Alaskas seas and harvest special gastronomical delights from our gardens and the deep woods. Yes, we have morel mushrooms in Alaska.


If your taste buds have never experienced these earthy delicacies, remind yourself to grab a bucket and hunt for these incredible delights right here. They are the ultimate in the mushroom world. They love a wildfire and flourish on land that has been recently burned.

Make sure of your identification, as there are many mushrooms that come up after a fire. You dont want to ingest the wrong ones. The right morel has a spongy-looking head and is hollow from the top of the head to the stem bottom; the cap and stalk are one unit.

Before harvesting and for some great info on these delicacies, be sure to take a look at the paper published on morel mushrooms in Alaska by the U.S. Forest Service. You can find it online at

The other fisherman, also the hunter, informed me after returning from a moose hunt up in the Interior one fall that he and his hunting buddies picked and enjoyed eating morels from land burned by a wildfire that skirted their secret camp. I was pretty disappointed when he told me he didnt bring me anything home, though.

Mushrooms with Garlic Butter

Courtesy Gourmet Magazine

These mushrooms take the place of snails in a play on classic escargot. Makes 4 first-course or side-dish servings.

3 slices firm white sandwich bread, crust discarded and bread cut into 1/4-inch cubes (1 1/4 cups)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

3/4 pound small white mushrooms

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375F.

Toast bread cubes in a shallow baking pan in oven, stirring once, until golden and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter with garlic, salt, and pepper (on the stove or in a microwave). Put mushrooms in an 8-inch square baking dish and toss with garlic butter.

Bake, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are soft and juicy, 15 to 20 minutes.

Just before serving, toss mushrooms with parsley and croutons.

White Wine Herbed Mushrooms

6 servings

1 tablespoon each olive oil and butter

1 1/2 pounds fresh mushrooms, whole

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

2 tablespoons grated good quality parmesan cheese

Heat the oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat. Place mushrooms in the skillet, season with Italian seasoning and cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Mix the wine and garlic into the skillet, and continue cooking until most of the wine has evaporated.

Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with chives and parmesan and serve.

Great with steak as a side dish.

Chicken, Mushrooms and Asparagus with Penne Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce

Sliced chicken breast combined with my favorite veggies and a fresh creamy tomato sauce creates this delicious, easy to make pasta dish. Serve with grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy with a nice glass of chardonnay or pinot noir.

4-6 servings

3 fresh chicken breasts

1/4 cup olive oil

1-2 cloves minced garlic

10 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms

1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed and chopped

1 (14.5 ounce) can pureed tomatoes

1 (16 ounce) package uncooked penne pasta

1 cup heavy cream

Squeeze of lemon or a little balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Good quality parmesan cheese

Brown chicken breasts sliced in inch thick slices on the diagonal and seasoned with salt and pepper in a little olive oil and butter. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and saut the garlic until lightly browned.

Place mushrooms in the skillet, and cook 5 minutes.

Mix in asparagus, and cook 3-5 minutes, or until tender.

Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in the tomatoes and chicken breast slices. Add a little lemon juice or balsamic vinegar to brighten the sauce to taste.

Reduce heat to low, and gently simmer 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Place penne pasta in the pot, cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until al dente, and drain.

Mix the heavy cream into the skillet, and continue cooking 10 minutes, until sauce is thickened. Adjust seasonings and serve all over the cooked pasta and sprinkle with grated cheese.

Enjoy with a nice glass of chardonnay or pinot noir.

Until next time, have fun in the kitchen and go pick raspberries in preparation for the recipes in my next column.