It was a late afternoon in a favorite parking lot on Current River when I ran into Mark Wagner, one of my fly fishing companions. We exchanged the usual kind of river information when Mark said he wasn’t really there to fish but looking for chanterelles. “What the heck is a chanterelle,” I asked having no idea what he was talking about. “Mushrooms,” he said. Chanterelle mushrooms.
I knew about Morels but Chanterelles, I had never heard of them. Mark whipped out his iPhone, showing me these orange, misshapen things that looked like they would kill you if you are ate them. “Those are chanterelles?” I said. “I’ve got them popping up all over the place at my house. I was sure they were something poisonous.”
When I returned home that afternoon I immediately went into the mossy part of my yard where there were a bunch growing. A few quick Googles to make sure I knew what I was doing and a recipe or two, then I was off with basket and knife in hand. “This is going to be fun,” I said to myself. I have always loved looking for new things as I hike and this would be something new and something I can eat as well.
I picked enough mushrooms to make a meal and brought them into the house. I printed out the recipe I had chosen and went to work. First, they needed to be sliced into bite-sized pieces. Then I sauteed them in butter, along with some green onions, lemon juice, marjoram, and white vermouth.
After cooking for about 20 minutes I added, what every woman loves, heavy whipping cream. As it bubbled away for a few minutes I could tell I was in for something really good. I was ready to dig in right then but I was just starting. This delightful mixture was allowed to cook for a few minutes and then gently poured over a couple of chicken breasts Jan had gingerly topped with salt and pepper. Then into the oven for about 45 minutes.
What met me when I opened the oven door was a dream come true. I had been cooking something I had never eaten and I had no idea what awaited the unveiling. To say I was thrilled would be short of what I was really feeling. “Well if it tastes as good as it looks I think I’ve pulled off another one.” I sometimes believe luck likes to follow me into the kitchen.
The plates were ready, armed with knifes and forks. I distributed some steamed snow peas to finish it off, poured the wine, and all was ready for the truth. Had I just completed a masterpiece or was this one of those things you wish tasted as good as it looks.
Victory! Sometimes cooking something new can be a disaster. On the other hand, it can turn out to be something you wish you could order in a restaurant. This dish falls into the later.
One word of caution. Once you have seen a chanterelle mushroom you will continue to recognize it wherever you go. Be aware, however, some wild mushrooms can make you very sick. So do some research or go out with someone who has experience with wild mushrooms. I have included a link to an article I use when hunting chanterelles. Along with a clear description of them, it also includes some great recipes including the one I used in this article.
Chanterelle season is upon us. They should last well into August and often September depending on where you live. If you are looking for something to do as you walk through the woods, keep an eye out for chanterelles. Even if you don’t like eating mushrooms, just seeing a patch of these bright golden wonders sticking their heads out of the leaves on the forest floor can add another dimension to an afternoon hike.