Golden chanterelles got off to a banging start this summer—and then 48 straight days of rainless weather stopped the flush cold. Here we are in late September and the chanterelle crop is barely limping along. That’s why it’s important, at least for us mushroom hunters on the West Coast, to know about another species of chanterelle, the white chanterelle.
I’ve said it before with huckleberries. There’s an early huckleberry (the red) and a late huckleberry (the evergreen); there are low-elevation huckleberries (red and evergreen) and high-elevation huckleberries (thin-leaf and oval-leaf). There are 13 species of Vaccinium in Washington alone! The point is, if you want huckleberries—and who doesn’t?—it’s good to understand the many varieties, with their different habitats and calendars.
So, too, with chanterelles. There are early-fruiting spruce chanterelles and late-fruiting spruce chanterelles; there are spruce chanterelles on the coast associated with Sitka and spruce chanterelles in the mountains with Engelmann; there are Pacific golden chanterelles in the second-growth Douglas-fir, whites in the old-growth Douglas-fir, and mud hens in the oaks. There are others. Know your varieties.
White chanterelles, like lobster mushrooms, started fruiting right on schedule this year despite the lack of precip. Granted, they didn’t emerge in droves, but they were in the usual habitats if you knew where to look.
I hunt for white chanterelles in older Douglas-fir forests, and though I have a feeling they’re more apt to be found in drier forests (dry being a relative term), I’ll also find them in some of the wettest places in Washington, too. Go figure. You have to look harder for whites. They hide under the duff and moss when they’re young, and as a result they’re usually dirtier than goldens. After a few good rains they can also become quite large and meaty. The white might be my favorite chanterelle for taste and aroma. Don’t be put off by the bruising (see photo below); white chanterelles typically bruise when handled but this doesn’t affect the taste or texture.
I take some heat in my family for making dinners that no one wants to eat. You might think that my kids are getting exposed to all kinds of wonderful foods—and you’d be correct—but more often than not they just want what the other kids their age are eating at home: mac ‘n’ cheese, tacos, hot dogs, etc. My son is a fiend for Tuna Surprise, which he cooks himself a couple times a week with the usual can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, a can of tuna, a can of button mushrooms, and a box of pasta. I tried wooing him with my smoked salmon version of this classic, and though it earned high marks, he goes back to the tried-and-true. My daughter, on the other hand, has declared herself a vegetarian at age seven, which is an entirely different kettle of fish (and, no, she’s not a pescatarian, so she can’t eat those fish either).
As my wife Martha reminds me, there’s no reason to get uptight about their food proclivities as long as they’re eating mostly healthy whole foods from local sources. The last thing you want to do is give a kid a food complex.
With all this in mind, I thought Martha’s request for a Stroganoff with chanterelles was brilliant. Here was something the kids would surely love: comfort food with foraged mushrooms, plus locally sourced beef added for the meat eaters. Even the sour cream, from Tillamook, would be local. Great idea!
Yeah, great for the parents. We had a neighbor and her son over to join us. The three parents ended up eating all the Stroganoff while the three kids revolted and ended up chowing down on plain pasta with butter.
6 tbsp butter, divided
1 lb top sirloin, thinly sliced
1/3 cup shallots, chopped
1 lb chanterelles, sliced
1 cup sour cream
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup white wine
salt and pepper
fresh parsley, chopped
1. Season beef with salt and pepper, then sauté in 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat in a large saucepan, cooking a minute or two before turning for another minute or two. Be careful not to overcook the beef. Remove to a bowl.
2. Sauté shallots in same pan until translucent, a couple minutes. Remove to same bowl with beef.
3. Add remaining butter to pan and sauté chanterelles several minutes. De-glaze with wine and cognac.
4. Reduce heat to low and add sour cream and mustard. Stir in a pinch of dried tarragon (or a loose tablespoon of chopped fresh). Return beef and shallots to pan and cook together another couple minutes before serving.
5. Serve over egg noodles. Garnish with paprika and parsley.