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Foraging for morel mushrooms on base

We talked to a local chef about how to make mushroom meals at home

Executive Chef Alex Anton at the Smoke + Cedar. Photo credit: Kevin Knodell

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It's morel mushroom season in the Pacific Northwest, and sources tell us the edible fungus can be found at Joint Base-Lewis McChord near the cemetery.

We talked to Alex Anton, the executive chef at the Smoke + Cedar about how to choose good mushrooms, how to prepare them and what you can do with them to make them into delicious meals.

There are two varieties you may encounter - black and blonde morels. Anton explains that they differ in color, but not in taste. You have to get a bit more hands on in choosing the best ones. "Make sure their firm and smell earthy," the chef says.

When you take them home, don't use water to wash the mushrooms. "Water softens and degrades the mushroom," Anton says. Instead, he recommends using a bristle brush.

The chef notes that when sautéing wild-picked mushrooms, be prepared. They take longer to cook than store-bought ones. He explains that's because mushrooms grown in the wild have much more nutrients and fiber than cultivated mushrooms.

He advises starting off at a lower temperature and slow cooking them. When sautéed, they're a great addition to several dishes, especially meats - and steaks in particular.

More adventurous foodies can take advantage of the fact that morel mushrooms are hollow by piping in filling made from a cream cheese base - possibly infused with garlic or onions. You can put together a cheap makeshift piping device out of a Ziploc bag.

"Morels are usually expensive," Anton said, explaining that the labor time put into cultivating the fungus makes them valuable. So if you find them, it's a real treat.

If you end up finding a larger amount, Anton said you can dry out morels for safekeeping and rehydrate them later with hot water.

SMOKE + CEDAR, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., 2013 S. Cedar St., Tacoma, 253.343.6090,

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