Well, here it is: after a record-breaking dry spell, the old familiar cold and rain have finally arrived. Some of us love it; some of us hate it; and some of us tolerate the long grey months because we know that they have their rewards.
Rewards? Yes, there are a few. What’s rain in the valley is usually snow in the higher elevations, providing sport for skiers and snowboarders. After we wait out a soggy winter we often have a beautiful spring (a little lacking in recent years) and wonderful summers, for a start.
And for the intrepid hiker who isn’t afraid of damp feet and slippery footing, Oregon’s forests can be beautiful in the rainy season, and the many species of fascinating and edible mushrooms that spring up when the rain comes down are a reason to welcome the wet.
“I don’t like to work with intangibles,” he says; he made the choice long ago to be out in the weather hunting for chanterelles rather than sitting behind a desk shuffling numbers. Rob says he loves to spend time in nature and take longs walks in the forests where he harvests fungal delicacies; he needs time in the wild to be happy. This is especially lucky this year, since unusual weather (the long, late-summer dry spell followed by not only rain, but cold) has made this year’s mushroom crop scarce and harder to find–the worst year for picking that Rob has seen.
Since we don’t all have the time, ability, or know-how to go on those long walks ourselves, many of us rely on the convenient commercial availabilty of chanterelles and other wild mushrooms. Having someone else do the legwork can be well worth the time and effort saved for busy folks, even though this year’s smaller harvest has driven prices up.
Chanterelles have a nutty, savory, delicate flavor with wide appeal–varieties of this mushroom grow in the northerly areas of Europe, Asia, and America, and they’re relished in many different cuisines. There are endless ways to prepare and enjoy them; a quick search for “chanterelle recipes” on Google yielded 42,000 hits!
Chanterelle recipes are easier to find than mushrooms, but in search of more, I solicited recipes from Kiva employees this week and got some to add to the record.
A caveat: these are not recipes written or tested by professional chefs, so use your own judgement. Your mileage may vary!
The simplest came from Tom, our local grocery buyer. He likes to slice, pan-fry, and eat chanterelles before they leave the skillet. It doesn’t get easier than that!
Dave, one of our produce managers, offered this recipe:
Dave’s Kale with Chanterelle
In a separate pan, heat the chanterelles until they release liquid, then add them to the kale mixture. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper; serve immediately.
Our wine buyer Ziggy makes this creamy Chanterelle Chicken every autumn at least once. As you might expect, wine plays an important part in this dish.
Ziggy’s Chanterelle Chicken (serves 4 to 6)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, browned and cubed (1/2 inch cubes)
This is a traditional autumn recipe in my house, and I always pair it with an oaked Chardonnay which complements the savory woody notes of the mushrooms. I recommend Stangeland for an Oregon Chardonnay (oaky but also floral and subtle with some crispness left), or J. Lohr’s Riverstone or Arroyo Vista Chardonnays for Californiawine.
I also always accompany the Chanterelle Chicken with a pear/blue-cheese salad. Any pear of your choice can be sliced or cubed, topped with small pieces of blue cheese (I love the Fourme D’Ambert, which is sweet and nutty and complements fruit very well), and crushed roasted hazelnuts, covered with a balsamic vinaigrette and served on a bed of greens.
That’s it for now. Next week we’ll be back with a few other recipes from familiar faces at the Kiva. In the meantime, tell us–what do you do with chanterelles?