Monday, November 5, 2018

A few ideas for Chanterelles season

When I shop for groceries, I’m always on a mission.  I’m just not much of a browser.  And I'm definitely not much of an impulse shopper.  I’m all about speed, efficiency and checking off the items on my list.  (I try not to knock people down in my haste…)  I pretty much save browsing for the farmers’ market.  Occasionally something that isn’t on my list will catch my attention when I'm at the grocery store and I’ll stop to have a look.  Of course this happens most often in the produce section (or maybe the meat or seafood department).  Figs, for example, always catch me off guard.  I wasn’t expecting them…and then there they are.  And suddenly they are on my list.

This happened a few weeks ago at Costco…with chanterelles.  I think Costco has them every fall, but for some reason I have never purchased any.  They are always for sale at a good price, but are still not what one might call inexpensive.  I think I have always thought:  how will two of us consume a pound of chanterelles before they begin to deteriorate?  This is silly of course.  We consume pounds and pounds of all kinds of vegetables all the time and I don’t think anything about it.  The trick is in making a habit out of something. 

I had not thought that far yet a couple of weeks ago when I succumbed to that initial impulse and bought a pound of chanterelles (I really just wanted to eat them).  But I can now happily say I am in the habit.  We have gone through at least three pounds since I first saw them.  I’m pretty sure I will be buying more before the season is over. 

Today I wanted to share a few of the things we have enjoyed…to help get you in the habit too.  Because chanterelles are special…expensive and not always available in my region (even though they have a fairly long season from early fall and into winter)…I like to serve them as simply as possible.  Their savory and aromatic flavor…and meaty-yet-tender texture…should be given center stage without too much competition from other flavors and ingredients.

Chanterelles are supposed to be wonderful when baked, but I have never prepared them that way (I guess I just need to get into the habit…).  To me, cooking chanterelles almost always begins with a sauté in olive oil or butter (see my “how to sauté mushrooms” post for some basic pointers).  From there I like to add shallots…and sometimes some garlic.  After that I add a few herbs (thyme, parsley and chives are my favorite) and more butter…  sometimes a bit of stock…  or some white wine and/or cream. 

With Green Beans, Celery Root Mashed Potatoes and a Sautéed Chicken Breast

Chanterelles started this way can be finished in a myriad of ways:  They can be piled on top of a slab of buttered toast…or a bowl of Leek & Prosciutto Risotto.  They are also delicious floating in a bowl of soup…like Butternut Squash or Celery Root.  (Celery root is a particularly fine companion for chanterelles—the earthy, aromatic and slightly pungent taste of the celeriac brings out the savory and fruity flavors of the chanterelles.)  They are also a delicious accompaniment—all by themselves or combined with another vegetable—to simply prepared beef…or chicken…or fish….  

With Green Beans, Roasted Potatoes and Beef Tenderloin

And if you are looking for ideas for a fall vegetable to add to a frittata or quiche…look no further.  Chanterelles are delicious with eggs.  In fact, the aforementioned toast with chanterelles would be fantastic topped with a nicely poached egg….

One of my favorite vegetable side dishes is green beans tossed with sautéed mushrooms.  Using all chanterelles for the mushroom component makes this simple side even better.  Not only is this dish delicious and elegant—it is easy to prepare for a special dinner or holiday gathering (Thanksgiving, in particular).  Simply have your blanched green beans and sautéed mushrooms ready, then when it’s time to serve, wilt some shallots in some butter, toss in the chanterelles and green beans…and a few herbs…and heat through.  (If you want to gild the lily, top with a shower of toasted pine nuts—or crushed Marcona almonds—and some shaved Parmesan…)

I even used some of my chanterelles on a pizza.  A crust smeared with garlic cream (just use 3 or 4 cloves of peeled garlic—minced or thinly sliced—instead of a head of green garlic) makes a perfect foundation.  Topped with some sautéed chanterelles—and nothing else—this makes a pretty fine pizza.  But you could add julienned prosciutto…or cubed and roasted winter squash…or some wilted leeks…or even cooked bitter greens.  All of these pizzas are particularly nice finished with a bit of Parmesan and some Fontina (whose nutty character compliments the chanterelles very nicely).  The pizza I made included garlic cream, a bunch of Siberian kale, the chanterelles and the aforementioned Parmesan and Fontina.  It was delicious.

Not surprisingly, chanterelles are fantastic on pasta.  You could prepare the pasta with just sautéed chanterelles (the recipe can be found on my basics post).  Or, you could turn your sauté of chanterelles into a mushroom cream sauce before tossing with some fettuccine…  which, in my opinion, is about as good as it gets.

To prepare chanterelles for cooking:  Trim away any visible root.  Wipe away any dirt and debris with a damp cloth…or scrape any particularly impervious detritus with the tip of a paring knife.  Cut away any darkened areas that have become softened, soggy or sponge-y.  Small chanterelles can be cooked whole, but unless they are unusually small, I like to halve, quarter, or slice (about 1/4-inch thick) chanterelles lengthwise.  This helps them to cook through more evenly and provides flat surfaces that take on lovely, golden caramelization during the sautéing process.  While not poisonous, raw chanterelles can apparently be difficult to digest, so make sure you cook them thoroughly.

Haricot Verts with Chanterelles

8 oz. haricot verts/slender green beans, stems trimmed away
1 to 2 T. olive oil
1/2 lb. chanterelles, trimmed, cleaned and sliced or halved/quartered—depending on their size
1 T. butter…plus more as needed
1 medium shallot (about 20 g), peeled and finely diced (about 2 T.)
1 T. minced flat leaf parsley
1 T. minced chives
Salt & pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add salt until the water tastes salty (about a teaspoon per quart).  Add the green beans and cook until just tender.  Drain.  Rinse under cold running water…or spread on kitchen towels…to cool.  (I tend to rinse if I’m working ahead and spread on towels if I’m using right away.)

Heat a sauté pan that is large enough to hold the mushrooms in a snug single layer over high heat.  Film the pan with oil.  Add the chanterelles to the pan.  Sauté the mushrooms until they are tender and nicely caramelized—this will take about 5 minutes.  As they cook, regulating the heat to prevent scorching if necessary, and stirring/tossing occasionally.  Season with salt after the mushrooms have been in the pan for about 2 minutes (they should have some color at this point—the salt will not only season them, but will encourage the mushrooms to release their juices and will slow down the caramelization process).

If serving right away, reduce the heat to medium low.  Push the mushrooms to the perimeter of the pan and add the butter to the center of the pan.  Add the shallots, along with a pinch of salt, to the melting butter and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are softened—a minute or two.  Add the green beans to the pan along with the herbs and heat through, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper and adding more butter if the mushrooms and green beans seem dry.

If working ahead, transfer the mushrooms to a plate.  When ready to serve, warm a sauté pan  that is large enough to hold all of the beans and mushrooms over medium heat.  Add the butter.  When the butter has melted, add the shallots along with a pinch of salt.  Cook until the shallots are tender—about a minute or two.  Add the mushrooms, green beans and herbs to the pan and increase the heat slightly.  Cook until the green beans and mushrooms are hot through, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper and adding more butter if the mushrooms and green beans seem dry.

Serves 2 to 3 as a side dish.

  • This recipe may be multiplied to serve as many as you like.  Increase the size of your sauté pan as necessary to hold all of the cooked mushrooms and green beans.  You may need to sauté the chanterelles in batches so that they will caramelize nicely (don’t pile the mushrooms into the pan…add only as many as will fit in a snug single layer).  Add fresh oil with each batch.
  • When chanterelles aren’t available, this dish may be made with any mix of your favorite mushrooms.

Fettuccine with Chanterelles in a White Wine Cream Sauce

3 to 4 T. olive oil
1 lb. chanterelles, trimmed and sliced
2 to 3 T. unsalted butter
1 large (2 oz.) shallot, finely minced (about 1/3 c.)
1/3 c. white wine
1 lb. fettuccine (or linguine…or bucatini)
1 c. Heavy Cream
2 T. unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Freshly ground black pepper
2 oz. (2/3 c.) finely grated Parmesan, divided
2 T. minced flat leaf parsley

Heat a large sauté pan (large enough to hold a pound of cooked pasta…if you don’t have a pan that large, see notes below) over medium-high to high heat. Add enough oil to coat the pan, then add the chanterelles (if your pan is not large enough to accommodate all of the mushrooms in snug single layer, sauté them in batches). Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the chanterelles are browned and tender (this will take about 5 minutes)…add some salt after the mushrooms have been cooking for 2 or 3 minutes and are beginning to brown. When the mushrooms are tender, reduce the heat, push the mushrooms to the perimeter of the pan and add 2 T. of butter.  When the butter has melted, add the shallots along with a pinch of salt. Cook until the shallots are softened and beginning to caramelize…this will take a minute or two.   Add the wine and bring to a simmer, scraping up any caramelized bits off of the bottom of the pan.  Reduce to a glaze.  Add the cream, bring to a simmer and remove the pan from the heat while you cook the pasta.  Taste and correct the seasoning of the sauce with salt & pepper. 

While the sauce is cooking, bring 6 quarts of water to the boil in a large stock/pasta pot.  Add 2 tablespoons of salt (or however much is required for the water to taste salty).  Add the fettuccine and cook until al dente.  Drain, reserving a cup (or more) of the pasta cooking liquid.

Return the sauce to moderate heat and bring back to a simmer.  Remove from the heat, and stir in half of the parmesan.  Toss in the fettuccine, cubed butter and parsley and toss to combine.  If the pasta seems "tight" or sticky (it probably will), add a splash of the pasta water and toss again until the noodles and mushrooms are coated in a light fluid sauce. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and let sit for a minute.   Uncover and toss again to check the consistency, adding more pasta water as necessary—the goal is to serve the pasta when the noodles are coated in a light, fluid, creamy sauce.

Divide among serving plates, top with freshly grated Parmesan and serve. Serves 4 to 6.

  • If your pan is not large enough to accommodate a pound of cooked pasta, cook the mushrooms in batches in a wide sauté pan and prepare the sauce up to the point of adding the cheese in that pan.  After you drain the pasta, return the hot pasta to the pasta pot (along with the cubed butter and parsley) and add the mushroom sauce (scraping the sauté pan well with a rubber spatula—and maybe “rinsing” the pan with some of the pasta water—so you can get every bit of the sauce) to the pot.  Finish saucing the pasta (following the directions in the recipe) in the large pot and serve.   
  • This recipe can be easily divided for smaller households.  Just choose an appropriate sized sauté pan for your needs the amount of pasta and mushrooms that you are cooking.
Printable Version       

Pizza with Garlic Cream, Kale & Chanterelles:  Prepare the crust and garlic cream as directed in the recipe for the Asparagus Pizza with Green Garlic Cream & Mushrooms, using 3 or 4 cloves of peeled and minced or thinly sliced garlic instead of a whole head of green garlic in the garlic cream.  Strip the leaves from a bunch of kale (I used Siberian…but Red Russian or Tuscan would be good too).  Cook in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender—this will take about 5 to 10 minutes.  Drain.  Then spread on a baking sheet to cool.  Squeeze out the excess water and chop coarsely.  Sauté a half pound of chanterelles in some olive oil.  When the mushrooms are tender and caramelized, reduce the heat and season with salt & pepper.  Toss in the kale, drizzling in a bit more olive oil, and cook until the kale is sizzling in the oil with the mushrooms.  Taste and correct the seasoning. Set aside to cool.  To build the pizza, roll/stretch the dough into a 12- to 13-inch circle.  Place the round of dough in a pizza pan or on a semolina dusted peel and smear the garlic cream over the surface, leaving a 1/2-inch border.  Top with the kale and chanterelle mixture followed by a mixture of 2 oz. coarsely grated Fontina and an ounce of finely grated Parmesan.  Bake on a hot stone in a preheated 500° oven until the crust is browned and the cheese is bubbling….about 7 to 15 minutes, depending on your oven.

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