Saturday, July 10, 2010


This has been an amazing year for chanterelles in southern Minnesota. My brother Bob and I picked about ten pounds the other day. Here is a small portion of our find:

Too many to eat, so I cooked a bunch down and froze them for future consumption.

I also put some up in Everclear. After a week or so I’ll strain the liquid into a pretty aperitif bottle and have a fabulous chanterelle-flavored aquavit—good for judicious sipping, or to deglaze a steak pan.

Chanterelles are a member of what I call the Four Fabulous Feral Fungi. (The other three are morels, porcini, and truffles.) The flavor of fresh chanterelles is intense, wonderful, and entirely unlike any other mushroom. Some people say they taste like apricots. I think those people are overly influenced by the color. Although they do have a fruity quality, the flavor is not apricot, IMHO. It’s…chanterelly.

But then, just yesterday, I bought some “white-fleshed peaches” at Cub Foods because they were on sale. I tasted one last night and it tasted exactly like a chanterelle. To quote my friend Dougie Hanson, “I find that very strange indeed.” I've had white-fleshed peaches before, but not the chanterelle-flavored variety.

Here is my favorite chanterelle recipe. It’s always fantastic. The basic idea came from Bill Buford’s book Heat. This recipe is remarkably protean—every single ingredient (even the chanterelles) is amenable to substitution or elimination. I've made variations that include smoked hog jowl, salmon, ramps, chipotles, and various cheeses. You might even want to try adding a little sweet sherry or port. But first try this basic, no-frills version.

Chanterelles with Pasta


1 pound fresh chanterelles*

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves**

¼ cup finely minced shallots

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup heavy cream (optional)***

¾ pound farfalle (bowtie) or a similar quantity of other pasta****

¼ cup finely chopped parsley leaves (or you could use peas. You want something green.)

Cooking directions:

If chanterelles are large, slice them lengthwise into halves, or quarters if they are ginormous. Keep in mind that they will cook down to less than half their size.

Heat salted water in a large pot for cooking pasta.

Heat a large (12 inch+) saute pan. Let it get smoking hot.

Add olive oil, wait a few seconds, then add chanterelles to the pan. Cook on high heat (stirring no more than once or twice) for six or seven minutes, or until the mushrooms release their water and start to brown.

Add thyme and shallots. Cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in butter. Turn off heat and set aside.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook for two minutes less than you think it needs.

Drain pasta and add to the mushrooms in saute pan. Turn heat up to high. Stir in cream and cook over high heat two or three minutes, or until the sauce thickens and coats the pasta.

Garnish with minced parsley.

For those who insist on putting cheese on absolutely everything, serve with grated parmesan reggiano or hard cheese of your choice.

* DO NOT substitute dried chanterelles. Just don't. Trust me.

** It pains me to pay three or four bucks for those little packages of fresh herbs at the grocery store, so I don’t. Except for thyme. A package of fresh thyme goes a long way, it lasts for weeks in the crisper, and it is SO good.

*** If you want to skip the cream (I usually do), save a bit of the pasta water and use that to thin the sauce

**** The quirkily formal shape of farfalle, or bow-tie pasta, visually complements the chanterelles, but I find fresh fettucini to be more texturally appealing. Your call.

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