Yesterday I went on my first ever chanterelle hunt. We made our way up into the Oakland hills on the kind of crisp, wintry afternoon that seems so quintessentially northern Californian – all muted sunlight, hills soaked and green after so much rain, a chilly wind on the ridge, and a mess of clouds in the sky.
There were, of course, no guarantees. We ambled for a mellow half hour or so through muddy horse trails and verdant meadows before heading into the shaded canopies of oak and redwood. You know, the dark and dank places where mushrooms like to grow.
Not long in, beneath a tangle of spent blackberry brambles, my friend Evan spotted the first one. We snuck off the trail and into the dark of the redwoods, eyes trained firmly on the ground for another tiny burst of apricot. And there they were, those tiny bursts of apricot, and soon we had a pretty sizable collection of chanterelles.
Buoyed by this early stroke of luck, we kept darting off the trail anytime there was a hint of promise, but that was it. For all the muddy hillside-scrambling, crouched game-trail following, and misleading patches of pale gold tucked into every slope of damp leaf litter, we found no more chanterelles. Which is okay. We made out with something like two pounds each, just enough to cook down into a simple mess and pile atop a crusty slice of bread.
Last year, I fell in love with Fat of the Land’s lovely Chanterelle and Fig Crostini. This year, I fell in love with Seven Spoons’ charming Mushrooms on Toast. This recipe falls somewhere between the two.
Yield: 4 medium or 8-10 small toasts
1 – 2 pounds chanterelles
1/4 cup diced shallots
2 tablespoons dry Sherry
1 tablespoon butter, divided
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
fresh minced parsley for garnish
salt + pepper to taste
crusty bread for toasts
Note: Chanterelles absorb a lot of liquid, so it is best to wash them using as little water as possible. First, remove as much dirt as you can with your fingers or a paper towel, working gently. Then, under a delicate stream of water, remove any stubborn bits of forest floor. I found that I lost a fair amount of the mushroom surface in the cleaning, but would rather that than chew on grit.
First, as Evan had suggested I do, you’ll want to sweat the chanterelles to reduce their liquid. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, melt half the butter. Place your thoroughly cleaned chanterelles in, give them a stir, and cover. When they’ve sweat off most of their liquid, about 10-15 minutes, strain the mushrooms. Reserve the liquid for another use – you’ve now got the beginnings for a great stock or secret flavor boost. Set the mushrooms aside.
Toast your thin slices of bread now. Set aside.
In the same pan, melt the other half of the butter. Add the shallots and saute, stirring regularly, for about 2-3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, thyme, dry Sherry and salt and pepper, and stir. Saute for another five minutes or so, until the Sherry has cooked off.
Arrange the chanterelles on toasts, sprinkle with fresh parsley, and enjoy!