There are few seasonal arrivals that force me into a spontaneous happy dance in public – fresh figs, southern peaches and CHANTERELLE MUSHROOMS! A prized fungi on par with truffles, chanterelles have been thought impossible to cultivate, only increasing their desirability among fungi lovers the world over. However, a recent development in Oregon seems to be baring fruit – or fungi. A fruity yet earthy, nutty flavor with a healthy dose of heaven, these mushrooms fill my sense memory like a bucket-list bottle of wine. If you’ve never experienced them, find some immediately!
Today, at my local Port Royal Farmer’s Market, I happened upon 2018’s first batch of chanterelles in the lowcountry! After doing a brief and joyous jig, which I immediately regretted, I loaded up my shopping tote. Luckily, the licensed forager and farmer from 3 Sisters Organic Farm in Bluffton, South Carolina spoke my language. Equally delighted with chanterelle season, she helpfully explained the licensing process for mushroom foraging in the lowcountry. The long and the short of it is: I am now hoping to get licensed in August. Visions of Peter Mayle scouring the hillsides with a legendary truffle hunter filled my head and made my mouth water. I’ve wanted to learn the art of mushroom foraging for as long as I can remember and now this may just prove to be a reality. So stay tuned for that.
For now, I’m going to enjoy my golden beauties with a fresh pasta (also from my local farmer’s market – Rio Bertolini’s) and wash it all down with a nice, vintage bottle of white Burgundy.
- 6oz fresh chanterelle mushrooms, brushed clean and chopped
- 4 Tb unsalted butter
- 1 Tb fresh sage, chopped
- fresh pasta (I used black pepper fettucini)
- 4 boneless chicken thighs
- 2 Tb white wine
- zest of ¼ lemon
- sea salt and pepper to taste
First, I added one melted tablespoon of butter, ½ a tablespoon of fresh chopped sage and a sprinkle of lemon zest to a ziploc bag. I salted and peppered my chicken thighs then tossed them in for an hour to marinate. I grilled the chicken about a half hour ahead of time then sliced it thin. I will say, however, that bacon works equally well for this recipe and a bit of the leftover grease is lovely with the butter for cooking your chanterelles. Your choice!
Next, I took a small, damp brush and cleaned the chanterelles. I feel like washing them under water seriously takes away from the divine texture – so I recommend gentle brush cleaning instead. When cooking mushrooms, I ALWAYS take Julia Child’s advice to heart. Your mushrooms should be dry before cooking and you never want to crowd the mushrooms; otherwise they will not brown and achieve the perfect texture. So, I cooked the chanterelles in two batches.
In the meantime, I prepared the pasta – and remember, fresh pasta cooks much faster than dried pasta. Once it was ready, I drained in a colander, but kept 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid back for the mushroom sauce.
So, my mushrooms dry and clean, I chopped them up then lobbed 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter in the pan. Once the butter started to slightly bubble on medium-low heat, I added the mushrooms, sea salt, freshly cracked pepper as well as the remaining lemon zest and sage to the pan. I allowed the mushrooms to sit on the heat without stirring for a good couple of minutes. Then I tossed the mushrooms and once they were just about ready (about 4 minutes total), turned the heat a touch lower and stirred in the white wine, pasta liquid and the first batch of cooked chanterelles. I allowed the sauce to reduce down a touch while plating the pasta and topping with the chicken. At last, I drizzled the mushroom sauce over the dish and voila!
For wine pairing, I love a good white Burgundy (chardonnay) with a bit of age. Time will lend a slight nuttiness to the wine that really brings out the extraordinary flavors of the chanterelles. Tonight I opted for a 5-year-old Bourgogne Blanc crafted by Henri Boillot. Although a Bourgogne Blanc is as basic as you can get in Burgundy, this particular wine is more than meets the eye, or the label, at a fraction of the price point for its pedigree. Henri Boillot, fifth-generation Burgundian winemaker, is one of the most sought-after names in the region thanks in part to his meticulous, sustainable farming practices as well as his access to world-class parcels of land. Although the wine is bottled as Bourgogne Blanc, and carries with it the reasonable price tag, most of the fruit is sourced from excellent parcels from the lauded villages of Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet; the vines are merely awaiting requisite maturity before their fruit is included in the more expensive, village-level bottlings. In other words, this wine offers serious price-to-quality and is an example well worth seeking out. In any event, you can’t go wrong with a solid white Burgundy when serving this dish.
As always, bon appétit!