With the early rain this year in the Pacific Northwest, the chanterelle mushrooms popping up in Oregon’s forests have also started to show up in Sonoma County markets, from Oliver’s to Costco.
For Californian mushroom lovers living through four years of drought, which discourages mushroom growth, these graceful fungi are a welcome sight, since they can add depth, flavor and texture to all kinds of fall dishes, from soup and eggs to vegetables and fish.
“There is no mushroom more versatile,” writes Napa Valley forager Connie Green in her 2010 cookbook, “The Wild Table.” “Its texture when cooked is as tender as a gently cooked oysters. Its flavor has a toasty, gently nutty quality that flatters nearly everything with which it’s paired.”
If you buy your chanterelles from Costco, they will probably be packaged in plastic wrap. When you get them home, take them out of the package and wrap them in paper towels and a clean kitchen towel, so they don’t get too moist.
If the mushrooms are not too dirty, you can simply use a soft brush to clean away the debris. Unfortunately, most of the chanterelles have already survived a few rains and are in need of an additional shower.
Perry Hoffman, culinary director of Healdsburg’s Shed, advises washing the dirty ones at least three times, then letting them dry overnight on towels. When you cook them, they should be dry enough so that the stem yields little or no water when pinched.
“Cook them in a hot pan with butter, fresh bay leaf and a little salt,” Hoffman advised. “I love them just with a poached egg on top, with a good olive oil and toasted bread.”
Chef/owner Josh Silvers of Jackson’s Wood Oven & Bar in Santa Rosa served chanterelles at Thanksgiving with some fresh green beans that he blanched ahead of time.
“Take some good butter and brown it, until the foam starts to subside, then add the shallots,” he said. “Then cook the chanterelles, add the green beans and a little salt.”
Another simple preparation, perfect for lunch or a light dinner, is creamed mushrooms with grilled bread brushed with olive oil.
“My sister used to love mushrooms on toast points,” Silvers said. “Do some butter and garlic, cook the mushrooms in them and add just a splash of heavy cream or creme fraiche. Finish them with fresh Italian parsley, salt and pepper.”