Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Last Ditch Chanterelle Soup

Chanterelle season is coming to a close here in Washington State. Though we have yet to see a killing frost in Seattle, fall rains are transforming the chanties into big floppy, waterlogged monstrosities.  The other day I found some twice the size of my fist.

This time of year it pays to locate microclimates free of frost where chanterelles have enough cover to keep relatively dry. Even so, moisture from ground-soaking rains will be absorbed into the fruiting bodies and they'll balloon into what the commercial pickers call flowers, with tattered edges and deep vase-like caps (see photo at right). Many a neophyte mushroom picker has been overjoyed to find such huge specimens in the woods only to wrinkle a nose at the way they cook up slimy in the pan.

Here's what you do with soggy chanterelles.

First, choose your equipment wisely. Use a bucket or basket in the woods. A lidded bucket is best. If you're concerned about spreading spores, drill holes in the bottom of the bucket. The point is to have a solid receptacle and keep forest litter out. A soft-bodied receptacle such as a canvas bag allows for too much jostling, and a moisture-trapping plastic bag is just plain bone-headed. 

Second, brush off the mushrooms carefully after picking and make sure you have a clean cut stem. This time of year I only high-grade when I'm picking chanterelles, which means I pick the very best and leave the rest. I look for smaller and firmer ones. Most of the flowers I ignore unless I find a dry one. A few overly wet mushrooms can infect your whole batch.

Third, if you have a long drive, take care of your mushrooms en route. Empty them into a  newspaper-lined basket or box. When you get home, immediately spread the chanterelles over newspaper so they have a chance to breathe. Change the newspapers if necessary. It may take a few days to allow excess moisture to evaporate. I'm not talking about dehydrating them, just getting them into decent cooking shape.

One problem with drying your chanterelles over a couple days is that I suspect some of the flavor leaches out. With this in  mind, another option for soggy chanterelles is to cook them right away—but be warned, they will cook up slimy. On the other hand, I have an excellent recipe to neutralize the slime factor and make the most of the intense flavor that develops in large, mature chanterelles.

Cream of Chanterelle Soup

This is nearly identical to an earlier recipe I posted, with one major exception: the immersion blender, one of the great deals in kitchen gadgets. By blending the soup you get rid of any unpalatable chunks of slimy mushroom. The dried porcini is not absolutely necessary, but it's the secret weapon in any good mushroom soup.

6 tbsp butter, divided
1 med onion, diced

1 lb fresh chanterelles, diced

3 oz. dried porcini, rehydrated in 2 cups warm water

1/4 cup flour

4 cups beef stock

1/4 tsp white pepper

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

salt to taste

1 cup or more heavy cream

1. Melt half the butter in a large pot. Add onions and cook over medium heat until caramelized.

2. Meanwhile pulverize porcini into dust with food processor and rehydrate in a bowl with warm water.

3. When onions are nicely caramelized add chanterelles and remaining butter, raise heat to high, and cook 5 minutes or so, stirring, until mushrooms have expelled their moisture. Cook off some of the liquid. The time required for this step will vary depending on how moist the mushrooms are. They should be slightly soupy before continuing to the next step.

4. Lower heat to medium and blend in flour with sauteed mushrooms and onions. Pour in beef stock slowly, stirring. Add porcini stock.

5. Bring to boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Add spices. Use an immersion blender to puree soup or blend in a food processor. The soup should be smooth and creamy.

6. Lower heat and add cream before serving.

Optional but highly recommended: In a separate pan, saute black trumpet mushrooms, chanterelles, or other wild mushrooms in butter for garnish and added texture. If you can get your hands on black trumpets, by all means do so. They taste a lot like chanterelles on steroids and add exceptional flavor to the soup.

Serves 4 - 6

I've seen plenty of Chanty Soup recipes out there on the Interwebs that use exotic ingredients and techniques. This recipe is quick, easy, and delicious—and it highlights the main event, the mushrooms! You can make a complicated soup if you'd like. Then try this one.


ladyflyfsh said...

Lang, are you by any chance a member of MSSF? There has been a lot of chatter on their Yahoo Groups page (you have to be a member to view it) regarding a comment Connie Green made about par boiling (blanching) chanterelles prior to sauteing and that the practice which has been used in France for years and years helps reduce the amount of water from the mushrooms in the pan while sauteing. The end result is for more browned mushrooms. The blanching helps firm the mushrooms. They use the same procedure with other mushrooms like boletes that are not real firm etc. It is common practice in restaurants in the know.

Langdon Cook said...

Hi ladyflyfish - I received an email yesterday from a member of FFSC to this same effect. The short answer is no, I've never tried this technique. Definitely intrigued! In fact, I have some specimens just begging for a test. Thanks for chiming in.

Unknown said...

I love chantrelles! Yummmm

Anonymous said...

I recently roasted a big pan of soggy chanterelles for the freezer instead of sauteing in batches, and it was pretty successful. I used some neutral oil, and a super hot oven (maybe 475 or 500) until most of the water had been exuded, then salted and turned the temp down to 400ish. There was some nice browning when they were done, and pretty decent firm-tender texture as well.

Anonymous said...

I must try this soup. I live outside of Colville and we've been trying to find chanterelles here for six years and we're told they aren't here, closes places is the Priest Lake area where we found tons. Just two days go my husband came home from a walk about 5 miles from our house and found 2 1/2 gallons of huge chanterelles. We have had many frost/freezes but they weren't damaged. Many were found deep in the duff. Needless to say we were thrilled. Hopefully we'll find them next year. JoAnn

Anonymous said...

as long as its relatively dry out and I'm not planning on picking every shroom I see I'll take wads of plastic grocery bags along instead of lugging baskets and buckets. Even stuffed tight into a backpack the solid button shrooms do fine. Plastic grocery bags also work great for dry nettles, watercress and chickweed. The bags usually have little holes in the bottom which can help with draining and breathing.

Jeff said...

I have been having trouble avoiding a slimy mess even when the chanterelles aren't overly wet. Will have to try this drying method and the soup.

Thanks for the ideas

Langdon Cook said...

Anonymous - Roasting chanties in the oven is another option. I do it more often with porcini, but makes sense to roast chanties too.

Jeff - I think you'll be happy with the results.

janelle said...

Yummo---can you bring some over for THX dinner? Now I want shrooms!

Anonymous said...

The recipe needs some improvement - all that flour needs to be cooked, otherwise this turns into gravy with a very pronounced raw-flour aroma. However, that's hard once the mushrooms and onions are already in the pan.

The Escoffier mushroom soup (e.g., here) involves making a veloute so that the flour is well cooked before the addition of stock.

In any case: thanks for posting the recipe, but as written this ends up being floury and gravy-like, not worthy of good mushrooms.

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm the person that posted the Anonymous comment immediately above. I'm retracting my overly harsh criticism.

The flour aroma goes away eventually, and the soup is not at all like gravy - it's quite nice. It just takes a while.

I added some cream sherry and sherry vinegar (~3 Tbsp and 2-3 tsp respectively) to brighten it up (and conceal the uncooked flour taste), and that went well.

Another tip is that I used the immersion blender again after the addition of cream - it "whipped" the soup a bit, added air, and gave it a velvety consistency.

Sorry I flew off the handle earlier :-)

Jeff said...

Thanks for the recipe--had to wait until the next season to give it a go, but glad I tried it. It was enjoyed by family and friends twice over the last few weeks.

Didn't have dried porcini around, but it turned out well adding pig's ear in the first batch and dried suillus sp. and b. zelleri in the second--just wasn't able to keep the golden color.

Anything to make ends meet this season :)