Dana Slatkin

Chanterelle Mushrooms and Grits

Chef Dana Slatkin Foraging for Chanterelle Mushrooms in Aspen, ColoradoCan you picture me bush-whacking in the middle of a forest in Colorado, packing a steak knife, and loading a rucksack with precious golden fungi? I didn’t think so. But that’s exactly how I spent last Sunday morning. Here’s a souvenir (courtesy of my shoddy Blackberry camera) from my first foray as a forager.

 

Chanterelle Mushrooms on the Forest FloorA growing population of hunters and gatherers are discovering the joys of finding food in the wild, and foraged cuisine has become a hot trend (see Bruce Palling’s article in The Wall Street Journal). For an amateur like me, the biggest thrill was venturing completely off radar into the wild, on a mission to hunt down some uncultivated treasures.

Up a remote trail near Rudeye Lake, I tagged along with my friend Michael Tullio, who foraged throughout his childhood with his mother in Michigan and Calabria. I was happy for the expert company, because distinguishing between the edible and inedible can be a matter of life and death. Michael showed me how to turn mushrooms upside down to inspect their gills. There were spongy porcinis and giant Boletus, but the chanterelles were unmistakable in their little golden clusters.

We traipsed back with our haul, almost ten pounds in all, fantasizing about what we would make with the beauties. Omelets, pasta, pickles, and fries were top on the agenda. But wild things need taming, and our chanterelles were filthy.

Chanterelle MushroomsAfter a nice cold bath of water and flour and a careful towel-drying to remove the excess dirt and moisture (See How To Clean Mushrooms.), my chanties were at last ready to be cooked into mushroom bliss. Using a technique I learned from Hank Shaw of Hunter Gardner Angler Cook, I started with a hot, dry skillet. As the mushrooms began to release their potent juices, a sweet, nutty aroma wafted through the kitchen, the fragrance almost irresistible. I quickly made a cheesy cornmeal porridge to capture every delicious drop — a down-home foil for my golden gems.

The dish was creamy, earthy, comforting after a forest escapade. And there were so many more ways to cook up my foraged finds. But, upon a little reflection, I decided not to keep them. Instead, I packed them up and gave them to friends. It seemed a crime to hoard my loot after all that…though I will be keeping the location of our mushroom gold mine to myself.


Serves 4

Grits
4 cups water or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup coarse cornmeal or grits
1 cup grated hard goat cheese (I love Haystack Mountain’s Queso de Mano or your favorite goat cheese (reserve 2 tablespoons for garnish)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, optional

Chanterelles
1 pound (about 2 generous cups) chanterelle mushrooms, washed well and halved if larger than bite-size
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup Chardonnay or other fruity white wine
1 cup mushroom or vegetable stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped tarragon, chives, or parsley

1. Prepare the Grits: In a medium heavy-bottomed pot, bring the water and salt to a boil. Sprinkle in the cornmeal, stirring to avoid lumps. Lower the heat, cover (The grits will bubble up and splatter.), and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the grits are creamy. Stir in the cheeses until melted and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Keep covered and warm.

2. Prepare the Chanterelles: Heat a medium-size heavy skillet over a medium flame. Add the chanterelles and dry-sauté them until they begin to release their juices. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and the garlic and continue to cook until the garlic is translucent and the mushrooms are slightly browned. Season with salt and pepper. Deglaze with the wine and stock, using a non-metal spoon to scrape up the browned bits. Simmer until most of the liquid is gone. Swirl in the remaining tablespoon of butter and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

3. Serve the chanterelles over the grits in small bowls, garnished with the reserved grated cheese and chopped herbs.

Looking for more wild mushroom recipes? You won’t want to miss out on these! Mushroom Quinoa Risotto; Wild Mushroom Paté; Shiitake Mushroom Fries; and Mushroom Edamame Burger.

Also check out these websites for more delicious mushroom ideas. and Forest Mushrooms.

The August Cooking Contest has begun. Enter your favorite tomato recipe for a chance to win some excellent prizes!

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