Seeing chanterelle mushrooms at the Market last week brought back memories of summer vacations with my husband and sons hiking through the woods with our rucksacks and handy mushroom guide foraging for wild mushrooms, and particularly the lovely and elusive chanterelle. Then there would be the kitchen table covered with mushrooms while we carefully cleaned them and the sizzle of butter in the pan on the stove holding the promise of something delicious to delight our palates.
Foraging is fun, but a stroll around the Market is a pretty nice way to acquire fabulous fungi too – whether it’s exotic chanterelles, briefly seasonal morels, or the more readily available, but equally delicious shiitakes, oysters, chestnuts, etc. And to prepare them, here is some of what I know from experience…
- Mushrooms are mostly water. Don’t soak them in more water, just rinse them and pat them dry, brushing them off with a moist paper towel or a brush to remove any dirt. Do this right before cooking, not hours or days ahead of time.
- Start in a dry pan on medium heat. Cook most of the water out of the mushrooms before adding anything else. This will concentrate flavor and avoid diluting and losing any other flavor you add.
- As far as flavor goes, less is more. Coating and frying anything is tasty, but why cover up the delicate flavor of mushroom varieties? Go easy on the salt and pepper, the thyme, the garlic, and any other enhancement. Having said that, each type of mushroom has a unique flavor profile that can be accentuated with the right ingredient. Most mushrooms love butter, garlic, and parsley. Chanterelles in particular have a slightly apricot-like quality to them and I find comes through better without the garlic, but with butter, parsley, and a splash of marsala. Morels benefit from cream and a splash of sherry in my opinion.
A simple way to prepare chanterelles for enjoying on their own or with pasta, rice, or on toast is this easy technique from Momsdish.
Chanterelles shine when sauteed over medium-heat with butter and garlic. Add a bit of cream and parmesan cheese, and allow it to thicken. Optionally, add fresh oregano, a dash of lemon juice, and salt & pepper to taste. The end result is creamy, yet light — a dish that can be eaten alone or served many different ways.
Another great way to enjoy mushrooms is to cook them up with eggs. Here is a classic omelet with chanterelles, but you could use any mushroom you like.
Classic Chanterelle Omelet with Fines Herbs
- 1 large farm fresh egg whisked until smooth with 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon crème fraiche or sour cream
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh herbs (equal parts parsley, tarragon, chervil, chives)
- 1 generous handful of fresh chanterelles
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon oil
- Fresh greens and edible flowers optional (dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, and a pinch of salt)
- If the chanterelles are dirty, brush them, then swish in cold water quickly, and dry on a towel. Clean chanterelles may simply be brushed without washing.
- Whisk together the egg, chopped herbs, and sour cream or creme fraiche.
- Heat the oil in a small cast iron skillet or a small non-stick pan. When the oil is hot and just begins to smoke, add the drained and completely dry chanterelles to the pan, cooking in the oil until they are lightly caramelized and golden, about 2-3 minutes.
- Season the chanterelles to taste with salt and pepper, then add the butter and melt.
- Add the egg mixture to the pan, let this cook for 30 seconds, stirring occasionally to form soft curds which should only lightly envelop the chanterelles, keeping them visible and not hidden under egg.
- When the egg mixture begins to coagulate, turn the heat off and allow the eggs to set with the residual heat of the pan.
- Finish the omelet by seasoning with a touch of salt and serve immediately, topped with the fresh greens if using. Makes 1 serving.
I suggest a slice of good artisan bread spread with a dollop of hand-crafted fruit preserves to accompany your omelet.