Category Archives: chanterelles

Freezer Foraging

I’ve been a couch potato lately. When Mama Nature puts down 15 inches of rain on Snoqualmie Pass in a single shout, effectively melting three feet of base, and submerges a 20-mile stretch of I-5 south of Seattle, I heed the warning: Stay home! We’ve got some biblical shite going down in these parts and you don’t have to live in Carnation to see the writing on the wall, or the ring around the living room walls, as the case may be.

Which is all a way of saying I haven’t been foraging much lately. A trip to the coast for the latest razor clam opener seemed like a dicey proposition—just ask the truckers who have been stranded on dry islands of highway for a few days—and river fishing is certainly out of the question. Too bad the squid jigging has been so poor this year, because that would be an attractive option right now. Next week I hope to get a shot at some blackmouth.

No, the freezer is my go-to foraging ground right now. I think I can safely say it’s the best investment of zero dollars I’ve ever made. For the price of hauling it away, a colleague of mine gave me a stand-up freezer several years ago and I’ve kept it full of salmon, shad, crabs, shrimp, razor clams, mushrooms, nettles, berries, tubs of stock, and a bunch of other wild foods ever since. The real test will come if I get into hunting and start laying in hunks of meat.

It’s a joy to walk downstairs to the basement to find a wild food du jour. Lately mushrooms have been feeding the jones: porcini with rabbit, chanterelles for Christmas dinner, lobster duxelles for our holiday party. Last night I hit the chanties again, of which I’ve got poundage, so I could bring a treat to Jani and Kathy’s place for Pizza Night. I also brought over enough red wine to make Kathy give up the recipe behind the dough that makes her Napoli-style pizza so delicious…

Kathy’s Pizza

Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to reveal it here on the Interwebs. But: much more goes into a pizza party at Jani and Kathy’s that can be passed along for your own enjoyment and emulation. Rule #1 is to hand your guests a special drink the moment they walk through the door. Usually this means a whiskey sour, though during the coldest months it might also be a rum sour, as it was last night.

Next is the pizza making: It’s a family affair, all hands on deck. A big pot of red sauce is already on the stovetop, thanks to Jani, but many other tasks are up for grabs, making the final ‘za a team effort. The kitchen is stocked. Jani and Kathy own no fewer than three pizza stones and three wooden pallets. Various cheeses and toppings are scattered helter-skelter. The point is to roll up your sleeves and experiment.

Here is my contribution, with ample help from Kathy:

Wild Mushroom Pizza

1 lb butter
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp fresh thyme
1/2 cup dry sherry
2 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 cup smoked mozzarella, shredded
dough for one large pizza
olive oil
salt and pepper
garnish of fresh thyme sprigs and pink pepperberries (optional)

1. Saute chanterelles in butter for a few minutes over medium-high heat. Add sherry and thyme; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until liquid has evaporated, then blot dry and set aside.

2. Stretch and shape pizza dough into desired shape. Brush with olive oil, then top with cheese mixture. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 500 degrees until crust is lightly browned, about 6 minutes.

3. Remove pizza from oven and quickly top with mushrooms. Return to oven and bake until crust is golden, another 4 minutes or so.

4. Allow pizza to cool a couple minutes. Garnish with pepperberries and thyme.

The smoked mozzarella and chanterelles combine to make a very powerful woodsy flavor, which is accented by the thyme and pepperberries. This is not a frivolous pizza. I should also note that previously sauteed and frozen chanterelles will make it somewhat chewier than fresh chanties, though not in a way that is displeasing. Be prepared to wash it down with plenty of red wine.

Christmas Dinner

Few meals are as pleasurable as those spent with good friends in a cozy home while outside Mother Nature is pitching a fit of truly memorable proportions. I learned a few fun facts this holiday. The city of Seattle possesses a total of 27 snowplows and we can count on a white Christmas 7 percent of the time. Folks are getting cranky about all this ice and snow—none moreso than those unfortunate Metro riders—but I say bring it on. I’m originally from New England and haven’t enjoyed a Christmas like this in ages. Even in New England, it seems, they don’t make snow like they used to.

Not so this year. The white stuff is general across the continent. Apparently all of Canada is snowed in for the first time since the early 70s. I certainly can’t remember a more festive Hanukwanzmas holiday in Seattle. We’ve been sledding up a storm at the local hill and building all manner of igloos, forts, and snowmen. Maybe commerce has ground to a halt but the dreams of children (and child-like adults!) are soaring.

Or were. The rain is back today and now the streets are really a slushy mess. Flood warnings have replaced snow warnings.

Last night we braved the horrendous driving conditions to head uptown to the home of old friends for one of those Christmas dinners that begins as soon as you walk in the door and hasn’t really ended by the time you pack up the tired kids several hours later. An arsenal of champagnes, wines, and appertifs accompanied h’ors d’ouevres and multiple courses, and everyone joined in for the making.

Tipton, a former denizen of the snow-free La-La-Land, chose a menu from the superb Sunday Suppers at Lucques for the meal, which included a seafood course of Scallops with Chanterelles, Sherry, and Parsley Breadcrumbs. The chanties, a pound in all, came from my stash in the freezer. We briefly sauteed them in butter with a tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves and then added 2 pounds of scallops and a large chopped onion and stirred to coat the scallops before adding a cup of sherry and a cup of chicken stock. We let this bubble for a couple minutes to reduce, then added another tablespoon of thyme leaves and half a cup of heavy cream and killed the heat. Two tablespoons of chopped parsley finished the dish.

At the table we topped our portions with toasted breadcrumbs baked with chopped parsely, a step that seemed gratuitous at the time but turned out to be a wonderful addition of flavor and texture. The delicious broth was sopped up with crusty bread.

The rest of the menu (#25, in the “Winter” section) included an Onion Tart with Cantal, Applewood-smoked Bacon, and Herb Salad; Potato Puree with Horseradish Cream; and Braised Beef Short Ribs with Pearl Onions and Kale.

Hats off to Tipton and Bridget for their gracious and too-generous hosting. We’ll be seeing them again for New Year’s Eve, at our place, for a Paella feast to kick off a hope-filled 2009.

White Chanterelles

Chanterelle season is winding down here in WA state. The coast is still kicking some out, but with low temps and more rain they’re not the firm, dry chants of earlier. In a couple weeks I’ll head south to the Rogue River Canyon country of southwest Oregon to catch the last gasp of the PNW ‘shroom harvest (and maybe a steelhead or two), then it’s time to put away the basket and start cooking all sorts of winter comfort foods with the fungal stash.

One of my favorites for hearty meat dishes and pasta sauces is the white chanterelle. Everyone is familiar with the golden chanterelle in its many guises (Cantharellus formosus, Cantharellus cibarius, et al), known as girolle in France and pfifferling in Germany. In the Pacific Northwest we’re blessed with another species of Cantharellus that some consider even tastier, the white chanterelle (Cantharellus subalbidus).

White chants are found on both sides of the Cascades in similar habitat as goldens, although in drier climates they’re often the dominant chanterelle. They tend to grow in clusters beneath the duff and often require excavation. My own experience suggests that white chanterelles are even more delicious than their golden cousins. They’re more aromatic (despite what Mykoweb says), meatier, and seem to endure more prolonged storage in the fridge. I save whites for my favorite dishes.

Chicken with Boozy Chanterelle Sauce

Here’s one adapted from Jane Grigson’s Mushroom Feast, which she calls Poulet aux Girolles. You can eyeball the amounts according to your own tastes. Mrs. Finspot likes this recipe because it’s not necessary to use a lot of cream to get good flavor.

2 lbs chicken thighs
1 lb white chanterelles (or goldens), chopped
2 shallots, diced
chicken stock
heavy cream

Brown chicken on both sides in a few tablespoons of butter, then add diced shallots. Cook until shallots are soft and translucent. Deglaze with a good splash of cognac (1/4 cup or so) and turn chicken again, then pour a splash of port (again, around a 1/4 cup). Scrape pan well so all the chicken bits are mixed into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Add a 1/4 cup or more of stock and stir, then an equal amount of cream. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for a half-hour. Meanwhile in another pan, saute chanterelles in butter over medium-high heat, careful not to overcook. When the chicken is fully cooked and tender, remove to a covered dish. Raise heat and cook sauce down as desired, adding chanterelles for final minute or two of cooking. Lay chicken over rice pilaf and pour sauce over. Serves 2, with leftovers.

P.S. Apologies for the lame photo below. My main light source in the house, an old standup lamp, was summarily kicked over and stomped by the drunken midgets that routinely take this place by storm (i.e. the kids). This year I’m asking Santa for a digital SLR so I can banish these low-light dinnertime blues once and for all.

Chanterelle Recipe Contest

Calling all foragers and chanterelle-o-vores! To celebrate the beginning of another wild chanterelle mushroom season in the Pacific Northwest, high-end food distributor is sponsoring a recipe contest. Enter your favorite original chanty recipe by Sept. 19 to be in the running. The winner gets 2 pounds of fresh chanties.

With so many favorite chanterelle recipes, I made the easy decision and went with my latest creation, Lobster Chanterelle Pasta.

Click here to enter.

Lobster Chanterelle Pasta with Fiddleheads

Surprises sometimes await you in the wild. Though usually thought of as a springtime delicacy, I found a bunch of fiddleheads the other day while hiking near Snoqualmie Pass. A trail crew had passed through earlier in the summer, clearing brush from a popular destination. The result was a new crop of lady fern fiddleheads growing out of the stumps of the macheted ferns. Fresh chanterelles from a recent foray and a trip to Mutual Fish completed the picture: Fresh fettucini topped with lobster-chanterelle cream sauce and sauteed fiddleheads. Yowwww!

I killed the lobster with a supposedly humane method: numbed it in the freezer for an hour, then took a sharp knife to a point behind its head where lines in the shell form a cross and pierced it quickly. I dunno. The lobster was still moving but maybe that was just nerves.

Next I sauteed the tail and claws in three tablespoons of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil. By the time the meat was cooked the butter-oil mixture was a deep yellow-orange color like a farm-raised egg yolk and flecked with lobster drippings. The meat got set aside and the butter poured into a larger pan in which I sauteed and seasoned a large diced shallot, a couple cloves of minced garlic, and a pound of rough-cut chanterelles. After several minutes of cooking on medium-high I deglazed with a few splashes of sherry, maybe a quarter cup in all, spiced with fresh chopped tarragon and thyme and a good pinch of red pepper flakes, then slowly added a cup of heavy cream, stirring frequently. The cooked lobster meat was then cut up and added back into the sauce before pouring over fresh fettucini with grated parmesan. Chopped parsely and sauteed fiddleheads topped the sauce.

I don’t have to tell you it was good, though Marty thinks I’m on a suicide mission with all these cream sauces. Not true. Such an artery-buster did require a good red wine, so I busted out the bottle of Walla Walla Spring Valley Uriah my brother Whit gave me last year. I’m a believer in the French Paradox. Besides, foraging is good exercise.

Silver & Gold

I feel like Yukon Cornelius on Christmas! A silver salmon at dawn and golden chanterelles by dusk. You can’t ask for better lucre than that, not in my book.

The silver was nothing to brag about—a small resident salmon caught at a local beach that made a good meal for the kids. The chanties came from a quick jaunt out to the foothills. It’s been raining clams and oysters in the Puget Sound region for the last week and I figured there’d be some early gold in them thar hills. Sure enough, my usual spot produced a nice haul. If this weather continues, we’re in for a serious fall of shroomery. The salmon forecast, on the other hand, is up for grabs.

Here’s a killer chanterelle recipe that’s much easier to make than it looks.

Chicken and Chanterelles in Tomato Madeira Sauce

1. Saute diced shallot and garlic in olive oil. Add chopped chanterelles and cook until mushrooms release their water. Season to taste. Meanwhile add penne pasta to salted boiling water.

2. Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste to sauce and stir. In a separate pan, fry pounded-thin and floured chicken cutlets in butter.

3. Finish tomato-chanterelle sauce with madeira wine and add water as necessary.

4. Serve sauce over chicken over pasta, and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Honest Comfort Food

Mushrooms equal comfort food—this despite recent musings about the impurities found in fungi—and never more so than when piled into an American classic as timeless and enduring as meatloaf. My dad makes it with Cornflakes and leftover hamburger. Here at FOTL, we stand by the wife‘s Turkey and Chanterelle Meatloaf, as sacrilege as the turkey part may sound (in reality, a beefeater would be forgiven for mistaking the ground turkey for cow). It never hurts to have appropriate sides such as sauteed kale from the garden and boiled, butter-besotted new potatoes, along with a robust beverage, in this case Rogue Dead Guy Ale. But the true standout is the meatloaf, a moist and messy rendition that combines the class of chanties with a wink to old-timers thanks to sweet, baked-on ketchup. Go ahead, admit it: You’d like to dig a fork into your screen right now.

The key is the chanties. A 12-oz packet of last fall’s frozen haul adds a woodsy, even fruity note to the ‘loaf that you just can’t get from supermarket buttons. And the great thing about meatloaf for dinner? You’ve got unbeatable sammiches the next day for lunch!

Marty’s Turkey and Chanterelle Meatloaf

1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium carrot, diced
1 lb fresh chanterelle mushrooms (or 1/2 lb of previously cooked and frozen), chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
5 tbsp tablespoon ketchup
1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs (two bread slices)
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 lb ground turkey

Saute onion and garlic over moderate heat, stirring, until onion is softened, about 2 minutes. Add carrot and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and they are very tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, parsley, and 3 tablespoons ketchup, then transfer vegetables to a large bowl and cool.

Stir together bread crumbs and milk in a small bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in eggs, then add to vegetables. Add turkey to vegetable mixture and mix well with your hands. Mixture will be very moist. [We use Diestel ground turkey, which comes in convenient 1-lb cylinders that can be easily frozen.]

Form into 9- by 5-inch oval loaf in a lightly oiled baking pan and brush meatloaf evenly with remaining 2 tablespoons of ketchup. Bake until meatloaf interior registers 170°F, 50 to 55 minutes.

Let meatloaf stand 5 minutes before serving.

Beef Burgundy with Porcini and Chanterelles

Recently I picked up a used first edition of Jane Grigson‘s The Mushroom Feast to give me ideas for my large store of wild foraged mushrooms. The book is as much a feast for the eyes and mind as a cookbook, with tasteful line drawings and Grigson’s signature authoritative prose. In fact, I’ve been so in awe of the book that I haven’t cooked a single dish out of it—until last night. My choice: Boeuf a la Bourguignonne, to which I made a couple adjustments, including the addition of dried and reconstituted wild porcini (king boletes) and the substitution of sauteed chanterelles for champignons.

Admittedly, it’s not an easy first recipe to tackle. Beef Burgundy (in the English spelling) is beyond classic; it’s a trip deep into the catalog, when French cooking was the be and all. The Gloucester-born Grigson even gets in a hometown dig in the opening sentence, assuring her readers that the dish “has nothing to do with the watery, stringy mixture served up in British institutions.” Ouch.

The presence of a “bouquet garni” is usually a good indication of just how deep in the catalog you’re spelunking, and as with most versions, Grigson urges her followers to make the preparation a two-day event so that the flavors can properly marry and any excess fat can be allowed to rise to the top where it can be readily skimmed off. (FOTL isn’t worried in the least about fat—excess or not—but he still stuck to the 48-hour sked.)

Before we get to the cooking bit, allow me a quick digression as to why I landed on page 190 of The Mushroom Feast. We had a nearly full bottle of Smoking Loon cabernet in the fridge, which someone had brought over weeks ago during our annual “Hair Shirt” post-New Year dry period. Rather than let it spoil, we popped it in the fridge with the idea of making Drunken Pork.

A few years ago this middling, heavily marketed wine arrived on the racks and was an immediate sensation among some of our friends who don’t really like wine. The vaguely aboriginal label design, lightened by the bird sucking on a big stogie, seemed to suggest a vintage that was approachable. At around $10 it couldn’t be terrible, right? No, just forgettable. The damn bird started making regular appearances at our dinner parties. We finally had to do a wine tasting for some of our friends to show them just how poor a choice it was, how they had been taken in by a marketing machine. For the same price as a bottle of Loon you can get a much more interesting value wine—just go to your local wine shop rather than a supermarket.

A refreshing line in Grigson’s recipe for Beef Burgundy told us we had landed on the right page: “If you use a cheap red wine, rather than a Burgundy, compensate for the thinner flavour by adding a tablespoon of sugar.” It’s hard to imagine Marcella advocating the same work-around for her Pot Roast Amarone. The Loon now had a home.


2-3 pounds of beef chuck, cubed


3 cups red wine
1/3 cup brandy
1 large onion, sliced
bouquet garni (parsley, sage, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme)
12 peppercorns
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt


4 tbsp butter
1/2 pound bacon, diced
2 large onions, chopped
several carrots, cut up
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1-3 oz dried porcini, pulverized & rehydrated
2 1/2 tbsp flour
beef or chicken stock (plus leftover porcini stock)
bouquet garni (from marinade)
2 tbsp sugar (optional)
salt and pepper to taste


1 pound fresh chanterelles (or 1/2 pound frozen dry-sauteed chanterelles)
parsley, minced

1. Cube beef and set aside in marinade for at least six hours.
2. Saute bacon in butter, transfer to large casserole dish with slotted spoon.
3. Remove meat from marinade (save marinade for later), pat dry and brown, then transfer to casserole.
4. Saute onions, carrots, mushrooms and garlic, in turn, then transfer to casserole.
5. Sprinkle flour into pan juices, cook for a moment.
6. Add strained marinade into pan to make smooth sauce.
7. Pour sauce into casserole and add enough stock to cover meat, plus bouquet garni and optional sugar.
8. Cover casserole and cook with low heat in oven or on stove top, 2-3 hours.

The porcini and mushroom stock add an earthy bass note to the usual preparation of Beef Burgundy, while the sweet fruitiness of the chanterelles makes an accompaniment that is more arresting than store-bought button mushrooms. We served the dish over egg noodles to sop up the rich gravy. As Jane Grigson points out in her first sentence of the recipe description, the dish owes little to a traditional beef stew. The meat is “fall off the bone” tender and each bite carries with it a plangent taste of red wine. Speaking of which, a meal like this demands an appropriate pairing. We picked a 2004 Syzygy cabernet sauvignon.

Secret Ingredients

This post goes out to my dear reader in Augusta, Italy, where the value of “little pigs” is understood.

I’m a fan of secret ingredients—just as long as I’m in on the gig. Secret ingredients can be exotic, hard to find, or, as in this case, curveballs. For two years running now, maybe longer, the Puget Sound Mycological Society‘s annual exhibit has employed a certain chef to whip up countless mushroom dishes for its cooking demonstrations, including a wonderful Cream of Chanterelle Soup. This year I collared the cook during a moment of weakness and extracted the recipe. The secret ingredient that puts this soup over the top is not the nutmeg (although the spice adds an extra dimension for sure) and it’s not the chanterelles, as velvety smooth and sweet as they are (a secret ingredient can’t be the main ingredient, after all). No, the secret ingredient in this chanterelle soup is an entirely different species of mushroom that lifts the soup out of mere excellence and raises it to the sublime: Boletus edulis, the king bolete—known to Italians as porcini, or “little pigs.” The porcini have been dried and aged to concentrate the flavor, then pulverized into dust before being reconstituted in warm water. The resulting wet mush is like a double-shot of the earth itself.

Italians have enjoyed the hearty properties of porcini for centuries. They use them to flavor soups, stews, and sauces with an earthy bass note that cannot be duplicated with any other ingredient, fungal or otherwise. King boletes fruit throughout the temperate regions of the world, although we are fortunate in the American West to have a noteworthy abundance while in traditional European hunting grounds the king, like many other mushroom species (including chanterelles) is increasingly hard to find. Spruce forests in particular are places to look. The largest concentrations of king boletes I’ve ever encountered have been in the montane forests of Colorado. Yesterday’s Cream of Chanterelle Soup was made with king boletes from the North Cascades and chanterelles from Oregon’s Rogue River Canyon. Ideally the chanties should be fresh out of the woods; frozen chanterelles such as these are acceptable provided they’ve been properly stored. The last time I made this soup, for the annual Yakima River Burning Pram, a buxom fly-fisher who called herself Trout Girl took a spoonful and asked me if I was married. Such is the magic of this fairly simple recipe.

Cream of Chanterelle Soup

6 tbsp butter
1 med onion, diced
1 lb fresh chanterelles, diced (frozen dry-sauteed is acceptable; see this post)
1 – 3 oz. dried porcini, rehydrated in 1/2 – 1 cup hot water
1/4 cup flour
4 cups beef stock
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
salt to taste
1 1/2 – 2 cups heavy cream

1. Melt butter in large pot. Add onions and cook over medium heat until caramelized.
2. Add chanterelles, raise heat, cook 5 minutes, stirring.
3. Pulverize porcini into dust with food processor and rehydrate.
4. Blend in flour with sauteed mushrooms and onions. Add stock slowly. Add porcini mush and any leftover water.
5. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer 5 minutes. Add spices.
6. Lower heat and add cream.

Serves 4 – 6

Super Easy Wild Chanterelle Stuffing

I like Sunday roasts so much that I have them pretty much any day of the week. Wednesday was roast night this week: a plump free-range chicken. It’s de rigeur in our household to have a side dish of stuffing with a bird. Often we’ll use wild chanterelles as a flavor accent in the stuffing, but this time around we made them the centerpiece. The beauty of this stuffing is that it’s super easy—aside from a bunch of chopping—and yet has that complex air of fancier concoctions. The toasted hazelnuts, with their satisfying crunch, go a long way in this respect. Also, if I’m making a stuffing that doesn’t include either sausage or dried fruit, I prefer my breadcrumbs finely crumbled, not big and chunky. But that’s just me. Do what you like.

1 med onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 med carrots (or 1 large), chopped
4 tbsp butter
4 slices sandwich bread, toasted and finely crumbled
2 cooked cups chopped and sauteed chanterelles
1/4 cup hazelnuts, oven toasted and chopped
chicken stock
salt & pepper, to taste

Sauté onions in butter for a minute or two, then add carrots and celery. Cook 5 minutes, then add chanterelles. Salt and pepper. When sauteed vegetables are soft, mix into bowl with breadcrumbs and hazelnuts. Add enough stock to thoroughly moisten. There should be enough stuffing to line a greased 8″ x 8″ baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees covered for 30 minutes, then uncovered for another 15 minutes or until desired crispness.