Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Chanterelle Mushrooms: An Autumn Delicacy

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Chanterelles: Golden Goodness

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Sautéed Chanterelle Mushrooms - Photo © Danilo Alfaro
Sautéed chanterelle mushrooms. Photo Credit: Photo © Danilo Alfaro

Chanterelle mushrooms are in season during the autumn months, which is when the farmer's markets will be full of them, but you can get them for most of the year if you really want them. They'll sometimes pop up in the springtime, too, so you just never know.

Chanterelles are probably my favorite mushrooms, and they have a really complex nutty, fruity, woody flavor, so I like to prepare them as simply as possible.

First I brush off any loose dirt and pine needles (they come from the forest). I don't wash them, because mushrooms are like sponges, and if you get them wet they'll just soak up water, which makes them difficult to cook.

Once they're clean, I cut them into bite-sized pieces and sauté them for about 20 minutes in a hot pan with a tablespoon each of butter and olive oil.

Cooking Chanterelle Mushrooms

Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. I find that I can reasonably cook about two cups of chanterelles at one time. If you try to cram too many into the pan, all the liquid they give off will cool the pan down and you won't get the nice caramelized sear on the mushrooms that we're after. It'll be like they're steaming or simmering rather than sautéeing.

Some people suggest sautéeing the chanterelles in a dry pan and adding the butter later, but since many of the flavor compounds in the chanterelles are fat-soluble, cooking them in some sort of fat brings out more flavor.

Heat the oil and butter in the pan over medium heat and then drop the chanterelles in, sprinkle them with Kosher salt and toss them around in the butter and oil.

Salting them now rather than later will help to pull out more moisture. Then let them cook for 10 minutes without moving them.

After 10 minutes the chanterelles will be brown on the bottom. I like to use a pair of tongs and flip each one individually so I'm sure I haven't missed any. Then cook for another 10 minutes or until the mushrooms are well browned and bordering on crispy. It's really important to cook out all the water, because you don't want to eat squishy chanterelles.

Add Garlic and Fresh Herbs

At this point you can add a clove of thinly sliced garlic and some fresh herbs and cook for another minute or two. I have thyme growing in my garden so that's what I use, and I think it complements the earthy flavor of the chanterelles really well.

You can stir in a little bit more butter and squeeze some fresh lemon juice to finish, adjust seasoning with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve them just like this. I love chanterelles with roasted chicken. But you can also use them in another recipe, like in crepes or an omelet or in a sauce or in mashed potatoes or with polenta or risotto — the possibilities are endless.

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