I’m in love. In love, with a fungus. It started out as adoration from afar, since even when paychecks were plumper, the object of my affection was still priced at the fungal equivalent of an ingot of gold. But that was ok, because every once in a while I would treat myself to an ounce or two, knowing full well I could never, ever let my lust get out of hand. That was, until I moved to the Pacific Northwest. Why would that matter? Well, it wouldn’t, except that the PNW just happens to be silly with chanterelles and other wonderful wild mushrooms. It’s pretty much mushroom nirvana here. And when they are in season, as they are now, those little ingots of Cantharellus gold are not only in every market and farm stand, but they’re cheap. Really cheap. Which means, mycologically speaking, I’m perilously close to mushroom gluttony, big time.
With my other addictions, like dark chocolate, shoes, or…shoes, there was always a boundary, a limiting factor to prevent me from going over the edge. But not now. Every week I venture to the farmers market and there they are, more each time, seducing me from their brown paper sacks and flaunting their affordability in half pound or even pound measures. Resistance is pointless. They are there, I am there, and you know the two of us are going home together. Of course I tell myself I could stop whenever I wanted. I could easily just pass them by, ignore the golden mushroomy palms reaching up towards me, beckoning me to add them to risotto, toss them with pasta, or get them all tarted up in custardy pastry goodness. Yeah, right…sure I could stop.
And as I tear another handful of golden chanterelles into a pan of sizzling butter, and wonder if it’s possible to O-D on these shrooms, I do know one thing for sure. The season is finite, the mushrooms will be gone soon, and I’d better get one more pound, before it’s too late.
There are dozens of really good recipes that play to all the gorgeousness of fresh woodland mushrooms. My mixed mushroom sauce or wild mushroom tart are great options, but my favorite treatment is one of the simplest. Some butter, herbs, cream, and a little fresh corn, all sautéed together to make Chanterelle Crostini with Fresh Corn and Tarragon. And if you don’t happen to live where chanterelles are plentiful (and cheap), it’s pretty terrific with creminis too.
Chanterelle Crostini with Fresh Corn and Tarragon
- 1 TBSP butter
- 1 TBSP chopped shallots
- 3-4 ounces chanterelles, brushed free of dirt and torn into small strips
- 2 slices crusty bread, (Pane Puglisi or Pain au Levain work nicely here, as does Ciabatta)
- 1 tsp chopped tarragon, plus ½ tsp more to add to finished dish
- 1 tsp heavy cream
- 1 tsp olive oil, plus more for brushing on bread
- ½ cup fresh corn kernels (cut from a cob is best – frozen works ok in a pinch)
- Salt and pepper
Brush the sliced bread with olive oil, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Toast on a sheet pan in a moderately hot oven (350°F) or toaster oven for about 10-15 minutes until golden and crisp.
Heat the butter and teaspoon oil in a small sauté pan until bubbly. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt and sauté for about 2 minutes until soft. Add torn mushrooms, cover pan and cook over medium heat for about 4 minutes. Remove cover, add in corn and tarragon, cover again, and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the corn is cooked but still crisp. Remove cover, add cream and toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add remaining ½ tsp tarragon. Toss well and divide between the slices of toasted bread. Serve with a crisp white wine like a Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc.
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