golden chanterelle (Cantharellus californicus)
You found a large number of chanterelles. Now what do you do?
Chanterelles keep best in the refrigerator in a sealed plastic container. Use paper towels to prevent the mushrooms from touching plastic. Change the paper towels when they become wet from condensation. The total time you can store chanterelles varies, depending on the condition of the mushrooms when they were picked. For best freshness, plan to use the mushrooms within two weeks.
If spots the color of butterscotch pudding develop, trim with a knife. The sooner you do this, the less “rot” will spread to the rest of the mushroom. If other colors (molds/fungus) develop on the surface, it is best to discard them. Green is usually just the fact that the mushroom sat in the woods and moss or grass grew on it. Reddish color on the surface could indicate bacterial growth - throw these out! The flesh inside should be white to pale yellow — checking the flesh color is a last stop measure to avoid mis-identification with the look-alike Omphalotus olivascens.
stripped like string cheese
use a non-stick pan
cook until water evaporates
When you are ready to use the chanterelles, trim off any discolorations including dry spots, mud, and debris. The best cooking preparation method is to “strip” the chanterelle like you would string cheese. Chop or strip into smaller pieces if the recipe calls for it. Dry sauté in a non-stick pan at medium-high heat until the water evaporates. At this stage, you don’t want to cook the mushrooms; just drive off the water. Wet chanterelles will produce a lot of water at this stage. You can pour off the water and reduce it separately for later use. If you are planning to store the mushrooms in the freezer, you must add a bit of butter or olive oil and cook for another minute or two. Then, cook according to your recipe.
Most of the simple chanterelle recipes call for butter, onions, white wine, and cream. These ingredients will bring out the flavor of the mushroom for a simple pasta dish. Chicken and peas go well with this basic recipe. If you want to avoid cream, mango juice is particularly effective to add both sweetness and complexity. Risotto a good standard use for chanterelles. Try adding butternut squash and pine nuts along with the chanterelles, and use a mild, flavorful stock. The standard favorite for cooking with yellow chanterelles is mushroom soup.
You can also slice chanterelles and cook them in olive oil for a lovely addition to salad, but as with any mushroom, make sure they are well cooked. Chanterelles can be brushed with olive oil and baked in a 350° oven, but this is a technique that requires practice.
People who have been cooking with chanterelles for a long time have suggested more daring spices. Try cooking pork chops or chicken marinated with Garam masala, smothered in a cream sauce with chanterelles using the marinade as a base.
See John-Marc Ventimiglia's excellent recipe for Chanterelle Soup.
© David Rust