Sunday, October 17, 2004

All About Chanterelles

What do hedgehogs, lobsters and fried chicken have in common? Here's a hint, they are all vegetarian. In fact they are all names of mushrooms! Last week in Seattle I visited Sosio's Fruit and Produce at the Pike Place Market where you can find upwards of ten varieties of fresh mushrooms. The Pacific Northwest is famous for it's wet weather and the upside is the amazing varieties of local mushrooms including hedgehogs, chanterelles, matsutaki and porcini.

Many mushrooms like my favorite the chanterelle, only grow in the wild and are often prohibitively expensive. Right now is the peak of the chanterelle season and these divine mushrooms are gorgeous, large, firm and unbelievably fresh. At Sosio's they were selling two pounds for ten dollars (a far cry from the $12.99 a pound for the lousy looking ones at my local market). Fortunately even if you're not in Seattle you can call Sosio's and they will ship these beauties to you overnight.

I got so excited about the chanterelles that I barely paid any attention to all the other mushrooms. But two varieties did catch my eye; the puffy lion's mane variety that looks more like a sponge than a mushroom and lobster mushrooms. The lobster mushroom is bright red like a lobster and is actually two mushrooms in one, the pale flesh is one variety and the red exterior is caused by a parasite fungi. Parasite or not, they are perfectly edible.

Chanterelles are a mushroom even a mushroom-hater could love. They are mild, slightly sweet and have a delicate texture similar to that of a cooked scallop. While you can find tons of recipes for cooking them, my recommendation is the less bother the better. Sauteed in butter they are divine, of course a little bacon, onion or sage doesn't hurt either. If you want to extend them, add them at the last minute to a chicken and onion stew. Don't overcook them or you will sacrifice the delicate texture.

Here is my basic preparation for chanterelles, once prepared this way you can freeze them and add to other recipes, serve as a side dish or just pile them on toast and dig in.

Sauteed Chanterelles
1 lb chanterelles
1 T unsalted butter

Slice the larger mushrooms in halves or thirds, If they are smaller and have very thin stems you can leave them whole. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add the butter and melt it. Add the mushrooms and cook them over medium heat until they give off their liquid. When they begin to dry and the color slightly intensifies they are done. Use them right away or freeze.

Sosio's Fruit & Produce
1527 Pike Pl (Pike Place Market)
Seattle, WA 98101