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Let’s Talk Spring Mushrooms

Spring Recipes, Tips & Tricks for Cooking with Mushrooms

Q&A Session with Renowned Chef Shelley of Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro

Maybe it’s because folks have a little more time to explore their own yards this spring, or maybe we are grasping at every opportunity of joy despite 2020’s rap sheet….whatever the case, 2020 is already being touted as an incredible spring for mushrooms! One of our favorites here at Dancing Bear Lodge is the mighty MOREL Mushroom! About the time that the MayApples pop into view, these tasty treasures are beginning to make their big (but brief) debut!

Morels only hang around for a few short weeks as the harbingers of spring, and this year, while ”Social Distancing” we just might stumble across a few of these little treasures in our own yards! Occasionally, Morels are seen coming up along the side of well traveled rocky or gravel path, other times, they are tucked safely away in wooded areas or along gentle creeks. If you are fortunate enough to stumble upon a few while exploring your own property, here’s a few tips, tricks and suggestions from Chef Shelley of Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro.

Let’s Talk Shrooms!

Chef Shelley Cooper

Q: “Chef Shelley, you use fresh, seasonal mushrooms all the time at the Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro and feature them as an integral part of Appalachian cuisine. Did you grow up eating mushrooms, or was it an acquired taste as you grew older?”

A: “After a hard think, I don’t have any recollection of my life’s nourishment experience without mushrooms. I know that I have loved them since forever and have many fond, delicious memories with mushrooms. Note too, I was the child who would eat anything and could be bribed to behave with food. That said, my adult keepers realized early on that in order to keep me in a good and tolerable state of being, food was, and still is the motivating authority – kryptonite negotiating weapon for my behavior.

Thinking back to my early childhood circa 1970’s, I remember regularly eating a dish of button mushrooms sauteed in the all star culinary workhorse of the time, Wishbone Italian dressing & marinade. When the very distinct smell of the mushrooms caramelizing and tangy Wishbone dressing deglazing the skillet would find me, I remember feeling sheer bliss and excitement of what joy my mouth and belly were going to experience.

I love food, it’s power to give all sensory pleasure and take you to a forgotten place in life’s journey. Food to me is thought provoking, inspirational, emotional and nostalgic.”

Grilled Mushrooms

Q: “What is your all time FAVORITE way to serve Morels and other edible mushrooms at the Bistro?”

A: “Wild mushrooms lightly charred in a dry cast iron skillet, garlic, shallots, white wine, finished with truffle cream, tossed with fresh angel hair or pappardelle pasta. It’s my adaptation of a dish I grew up eating called Elfo Special, which is from a old school Italian restaurant in Memphis named Grisanti’s. Lots of meaty mushroom sauteed with garlic, onions, butter and tossed with shrimp and angel hair pasta.
It’s my go-to comfort food that has so many wonderful memories of family gatherings and life celebrations with the loved ones who invested their gifts into my entire being.


Q: “Do you have an easy recipe suggestion for us first timers cooking with Morels, Chef?”

In a white hot, dry cast iron skillet, lightly char cleaned dry morels. Once the mushrooms are lightly caramelized, remove them from heat and add bacon drippings to coat the mushrooms. Stir in finely chopped ramps, salt & pepper, fresh thyme, a splash of pernod and heavy cream. Tightly cover for 10 -15 minutes. The remaining heat from the pan will finish cooking the mushrooms. Stir and reseason to your taste. Serve over lightly toasted bread and wild baby greens and finish the dish with a sunny side up duck egg.” (DISH PICTURED ABOVE)


And because we give a Shiitake……….

The Dancing Bear Gardens are growing! This Spring, we have added two additional beds increasing our growing capacity by over 30%. Part of this expansion includes a focus on cultivating Shiitake Mushrooms on property. As you likely noticed while on property last, Dancing Bear’s campus is punctuated by hardwood trees. Whether it’s a stickly Tulip Poplar or a great Oak, these hardwoods surround the Bistro, our cabins, and the event lawn. Our impetus for mushroom growth is to reuse downed limbs from these hardwoods. A majestic beauty turns into the host for your next great meal at the Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro. While we are always Farm to Plate, occasionally we get to say, “Forest to Farm to Plate!”

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