Friday, July 22, 2011

Foraging for Chanterelle Mushrooms

Nothing suits the pure foods mantra like the foods we gather ourselves.  Last week my brother took me to a few of his secret spots in Vermont for chanterelles.  These are the gold-orange mushrooms that look like open parasols from below with gills reaching down the stem.  Not technically gills, but to us amateurs very similar. 

Speaking of amateurs, it’s smart to go mushroom hunting with an expert, preferably a regular forager for the particular mushroom you are searching out.  Matthew has taken me before but I still needed a refresher on identifying them and he checked my basket as we went along.  The more you see them, the easier they are to identify.   Most wooded areas can sustain chanterelles and in Vermont they can pop up seemingly overnight from late spring into September. We had luck at the base of pine and beech trees and along the length of fallen, decomposing trees. 

The forager’s attire and equipment list is short: long plants and shirt to discourage bugs, closed toe shoes to step through the forest’s uneven floor, an optional brimmed hat to protect eyes and face if you like to crash through underbrush, a basket for your finds and a pen knife to cut the stems cleanly. 

At home, Matthew used a dedicated paintbrush to clean our chanterelles.  Now the hard part—to enjoy that evening sautéed in butter over pasta or the next morning in omelettes?  The flavor of a chanterelle is delicate so it pairs well with noodles and eggs.  Don’t be tempted to add many more ingredients or the flavors will overpower your chaterelles.  Potatoes, poultry and seafood also provide a nice match for chanterelles.

Restaurants pay about $20 per pound, nice if you are hitting a gold rush of chanterelles but not a sustainable living.  (Mushrooms are light.)  Still, its nice to know the going rate so you can pat yourself on the back while enjoying a delicacy sought by chefs and diners at multi-star establishments.

Cleaned chanterelles store well in a paper bag in the refrigerator and can be frozen (uncooked) to use within 3 months.  To freeze, lay whole mushrooms on a small baking sheet and place in the freezer.  When mushrooms are frozen, in about 2 hours, place them in a re-sealable plastic bag marked with a use by date.
We decided on open-face chanterelle omelettes with a side of goat cheese.