All Hail the Queen of the Forest
Chanterelle mushrooms, dubbed the Queen of the Forest, are worth their weight in gold to chefs and home cooks alike.
By Robbie Sigona
The wild, golden Chanterelle mushroom is up near the top of my list as one of my absolute favorite mushrooms. Chanterelles are one of the best wild mushrooms for comfort dishes, especially when paired with a nice glass Pinot Noir (try a 2006 Woodside Vineyards or 2009 La Honda) and eaten in the company of those you enjoy the most.
Fresh, wild Chanterelles are in stores now and are absolutely fantastic…they haven’t yet been drenched by rain!
These funnel-shaped mushrooms, which grow to be quite large, have a beautiful, golden color and earthy, nutty and spicy-fruity – almost apricot-like – flavor that only makes them more versatile and unique in a number of dishes.
There’s truly nothing like the taste of Chanterelles, with so many uses and being so easy to sauté for a topping over just about anything. I love them over a slice of crusty grilled bread, grilled chicken breasts, a steak or even a creamy risotto topped with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Wild Chanterelles, hailed as the ‘Queen of the Forest’ by mushroom enthusiasts, are in season now. We get frequent deliveries of these freshly foraged fungi from local, licensed hunters, who have top secret “sweet spots” where they’ve gathered wild Chanterelles for years. One of our suppliers, Franco, is a true fungi connoisseur and founder of PanExotic Mushrooms.
Franco lives part-time in McCloud, Calif., a little town just below Mt. Shasta in northern California. This area, “God’s Country,” as Franco calls it, is home to plethora of wild mushrooms, the finest found anywhere on earth. Franco starts by gathering wild Chanterelles in Oregon and then follows the season south along the California coast, making several deliveries a week to our stores.
Chanterelles, known as Girolle in France and as Pfifferling in Germany, are cherished by chefs and home cooks worldwide for their outstanding flavor and limited availability. While some farmers have developed methods for growing some mushroom varieties indoors, Chanterelles grow up out of the root system of living trees, so replicating growth in an indoor setting for mass production has yet to be accomplished.
What’s this mean? You won’t find them just anywhere. For guaranteed fresh, good quality Chanterelles, check the farmers’ markets and specialty produce stores like Sigona’s. We have solid relationships with wild mushroom foragers who delivery frequently throughout the season.
Chanterelles have meaty caps with rounded, wavy edges. Their shallow, widely spaced gills on the underside of the cap look more like ridges than the gills, and run the length of the stem part of the mushroom. The gills are notorious for holding dirt captive, so it’s important to lightly brush them with a pastry brush, soft toothbrush or paper towel to clean them before cooking.
When selecting Chanterelles, look for firm, relatively dry, plump and spongy pieces. It’s also a good idea to give the mushrooms a whiff. If the aroma is faint, they’ll have a mild flavor. Look for more produce tips here.
We hope you give these delicious, wild mushrooms a try soon. In addition to some of our family favorites, we gathered a few recipes from Sigona’s shopper Polina Antonova, owner and chef of Caliblini Personal Chef Service, serving the San Francisco, Marin County, and the Peninsula. Polina grew up in Moscow and says the Chanterelle is one of Russia’s most-loved mushrooms! Check out the Chanterelle mushroom recipes in our “In the Kitchen with Sigona’s” post.