There is the reason we assume that friends won't divulge their secret spot for mushroom hunting. We figure that they think it won’t be a secret any more. There is a kernel of truth in that. After my maiden voyage into the forest with a friend in-the-know, I'm convinced that there is another reason. No one wants to find out from the evening news that their friends are lost in the woods and that they sent them there. Despite being able to hear the cars on the highway and being just a few hundred yards from the road we parked on, every direction looked exactly the same to me. There was no trail, there was no path. It was like swimming through moss and branches, but really fun. I made sure I never lost sight of my guide. If I ever have a 30 second spot on the news, I want it to be video of me waving a lottery ticket.
At first we walked along, occasionally spotting a bright yellow beacon. It’s a striking contrast of golden ruffles against the backdrop of emerald. It went along slowly like this until our bags gradually got heavier. We got deeper into the woods and then suddenly they were everywhere in huge clusters. We couldn’t stop ourselves from picking just one more.
When I got home, I gave away what I thought was half and yet it seemed like I hardly made a dent in my stash. So the chanterelle feeding frenzy began. It’s like Halloween, but for foodies. As with peanut butter cups and Snickers, after eating chanterelles for four days it’s good to step away and take a break before it becomes too much of a good thing.
So here is a start to how to approach a lovely sack of chanterelle goodness when you find yourself in possession of one. Not many recipes needed, so I’ll talk you through some ideas and finish up with a recipe at the end.
Chanterelles on the Side
Sear or grill a beautiful piece of fish or steak. Heat up a tablespoon of butter in a sauté pan, add half of a minced shallot, and handful of sliced chanterelles with some salt and pepper and make a lovely bed to nestle your entrée on. (I’m always dreaming a few meals ahead. Just sauté double the amount of chanterelles tonight. See the omelet idea and save yourself some time in the morning.)
In an Omelet
Planning ahead from the evening before, pull out the extra chanterelles you sautéed. Crack a few eggs and choose your cheese. It’s the quickest meal you will cook this month.
On a Pizza
Store bought pizza dough brings this meal to the table a bit more quickly on a weeknight. Heat up your oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit while you brown a pound of spicy bulk sausage. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausage from a pan and allow it to cool a bit in a bowl. Use the pan drippings to sauté a bunch of rainbow chard and two cloves of minced garlic. Sauté some sliced chanterelles in some butter. (Okay, okay, just start the week off with a large pan of sautéed chanterelles and add it to all of your meals.) Arrange the sausage, the chard and mushrooms all over the crust and top with sliced green onions and goat cheese medallions. Bake about 20 minutes or until the crust is golden when you lift up an edge. Admire it for a moment because it will be very pretty. Dig in.
If you have tiny little wedge of pizza left for lunch the next day to have alongside this soup, I know you will smile.
It’s like having too much champagne chilling. Having too many chanterelles in the fridge is a wonderful problem to have. If you have ever been foraging in the woods, you know that you can’t stop yourself from picking “just one more”. This is a great recipe to put to use for a pound of those golden beauties.
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 shallots thinly sliced (about 1 cup), plus 1/2 shallot minced
1 pound chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup dry white wine
1-1/2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth*
1 bay leaf
5 thyme sprigs
1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and stir. The butter will foam a bit. When it subsides, add the chanterelles and season with salt and pepper. Stir frequently until the excess liquid evaporates and the chanterelles start to brown slightly, about 10 minutes.
Add flour and stir to coat the chanterelles. Cook for 30 seconds. Add wine. Stir constantly, scraping the bottom of the pan until the contents are thick and syrupy, about 1 minute. Add chicken broth, bay leaves and thyme springs.
Bring soup to a simmer. Lower heat and continue to barely simmer for about 30 minutes.
Discard the bay leaves and thyme.Transfer soup to a blender and blend until completely smooth. Slowly add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cream to reach desired consistency. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
*Use vegetable or mushroom broth to make this a vegetarian soup.
FINISH IT OFF
Reserve a few chanterelles after you sauté them to top off the soup.
A few garlicky croutons scattered over the soup add another layer of flavor and texture.
Several dollops of creme fraîche and a scattering of thyme leaves add a tangy flavor to the soup. Try just one or all three.