We went grocery shopping last Saturday, which is not special, but the autumn harvest bounty in the produce section was special. Squash and apples for miles, cabbage bigger than my head, aromatic pears and shiny pumpkins piled in every corner. But everything paled in comparison to the dirt-specked grandeur of the chanterelles. They are HERE! Or perhaps I should say they are in season, which means that they are giant, robust, unblemished and plentiful. Sure, you can get them other times of the year, but then they are sad and expensive. I don’t touch them out of season. But let’s not worry about that now. Saturday, I saw two displays with chanterelles stacked high and proud, and the sight made me happy– and hungry. I love them.
What’s so special about chanterelles, you say? They are just mushrooms, right? Well, technically yes, but no. The flavor and texture elevate chanterelles into a category that button and crimini mushrooms wish they could be in. They are delicate without losing the bite you expect from a fresh mushroom. They cook beautifully and pair with many different flavors, particularly autumnal ones: sage, apple or pear, Parmesan cheese, spinach, bacon, chestnuts. I am not a sommelier, so I won’t try to describe the flavor, but it is distinct, and pleasant. I learned that chanterelles are a rich source of vitamins C and D as well as potassium, and who doesn’t need more vitamin D this time of year? Good for you and tasty– it’s hard to go wrong.
I won’t lie: they are still more expensive than “regular” mushrooms, but not oppressively so. I bought about 1/2 lb. and made a glorious meal for us, and you could certainly buy just a few and mix them with crimini or button mushrooms to stretch them a bit. Chanterelles are wonderful in soup or savory tarts, really in any recipe in which you would use mushrooms. I like them with pasta, prepared very simply; I saute them for just a couple of minutes, more to warm them up than cook them through. A little bit of cheese and some seasoning and you are ready to go.
Celebrate chanterelles while you can, as they will be gone before you know it! But don’t think about that just yet.
Fettucine with Chanterelles & Bleu Cheese (makes 3 servings)
- 1/2 lb. chanterelles, cleaned and roughly chopped
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1/4 c. cream*
- salt & pepper
- about 6 T. bleu cheese, crumbled (I used an Amish bleu)
- chives, to garnish
- 1/3 lb. fettucine
Boil water and prepare fettucine according to package directions. (The sauce doesn’t take long; you’ll want to start it about the same time you put the pasta into the boiling water.)
In a skillet, heat oil on medium heat. Add shallot and saute until opaque and starting to brown, 2-3 mins. Add chanterelles and saute for 2-3 mins. They will start to soften and lose some liquid (a good thing) but don’t necessarily brown. Lower heat to medium-low and add cream; keep skillet on the heat until everything is warmed through, but don’t let them cream boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Add drained fettucine to the skillet and toss well, until the pasta is coated with sauce. After plating, crumble about 2 T. bleu cheese onto each serving and sprinkle with chives to garnish.
*If you prefer not to use cream, an equal amount of stock can be substituted. You may need to use flour, cornstarch or arrowroot to thicken your sauce. I have never tried making this with wine but imagine a dry white wine would also work nicely.