It's chanterelle season, and so I've been whining about mushroom hunting. "Where are my chanterelles?" I whine. Finally, unable to stand it any longer, Mike and our friend Chuck went mushroom hunting on Sunday. Now before you get all squeamish and horrified, I need to say that I'm as worried as the next person about poisonous mushrooms. However, chanterelles have not been domesticated and the only way to get them is to harvest them in the wild. That includes the ones you find in the grocery store. The grocer purchases them from a wild mushroom hunter. Their appearance is so distinct that it would be difficult to confuse them with anything that one shouldn't consume.
Have you ever noticed how many pine needles are mixed in with them when you see them in the grocery store? They're even dirtier when you hunt them on your own.
They're in season when the weather is warm and wet, and they like growing on slopes among thick beds of pine needles. Fortunately, they clean up easily enough. This is only a small portion of the ones Mike brought home. (And in case you're wondering about said whining above, I figure if I'm going to cook them, the guys can hunt them.)
So, like any fruit in season, this is the time of year when I drag out my mushroom recipes. My favorite go-to recipe for chanterelles is Chanterelle Mushroom Risotto. This recipe first appeared in Sunset magazine in September of 2004. It isn't difficult to make, but it is time-consuming. Any risotto requires that the broth be added a little at a time to give the rice time to absorb it. This recipe is well worth the time and trouble, and while you're waiting for the rice to absorb ladle after ladle of chicken broth, you can clean up after yourself. (I avoid recipes that require lots of babysitting while making the kitchen look like someone detonated a bomb.)
So here's how it goes:
You start with 8 oz. of mushrooms. Wash and trim them and then chunk them up into one-inch chunks. Spread them out onto a foil-lined baking sheet and then add thin slices of shallot (about 2 oz. worth), 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and one tablespoon of melted butter. Sprinkle the whole thing with about 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme and season it with salt and pepper.
Roast it in a 400 degree oven until the mushrooms are tender and beginning to brown on the edges, about 12-15 minutes. You can use them right away, or you can let them stand at room temperature for up to 4 hours.
Then, in a frying pan with 2-inch-tall sides or a 5-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, cook and stir 4 ounces of diced bacon until it's browned and crisp, about 5 minutes.
Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Discard all but about one-half a tablespoon of bacon fat and add two tablespoons of olive oil to the same pan. When it's hot, add 1 onion, peeled, halved pole-to-pole and then thinly sliced, and 1 tablespoon of minced garlic. Reduce the heat and stir frequently until the onion is very soft and browned. (If necessary, reduce the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of water to keep the onion from burning.)
While that's cooking, rinse one bunch of red chard. Trim and discard the stems. I generally fold the leaves in half where the stem is and then cut the thickest part of the stem out.
Strain into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and preserve the color, and then rinse again when it's cool. Like spinach, it will cook down to a more sensible amount.
Now about those onions. When they're soft and browned, add two cups of Arborio rice. You can use any short-grain rice, but I prefer the taste and texture of the real thing.
(Nice focus on that rice image . . . not!) Stir the rice into the onions until it is opaque, about 3 minutes.
Then add 1 cup of dry white wine. Any white wine will do, as long as it's something that tastes good enough to drink. Now is when the babysitting starts. Stir until it is absorbed into the rice, about 1-2 minutes. Then begin adding 6 cups of chicken broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until it is almost absorbed. This will take 20-25 minutes total.
The chicken broth will thicken and take on the appearance of a sauce. You'll want to stir it fairly frequently to keep the rice from burning and sticking to the bottom of the pan. I should say here that I prefer a frying pan for this dish because the broth is absorbed more quickly than it is in a narrower, deeper saucepan. A good rule of thumb for knowing when to add the next cup of broth is to drag a spatula over the bottom of the pan. If it leaves a trail, it's time to add more.
When all the chicken broth is absorbed, you'll know the rice is ready when it's tender to bite. At that point, return the bacon to the pan, add the chard, stir in 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the roasted mushrooms. If the risotto is too thick, you can stir in a little more broth. Then . . .
Spoon it into wide, shallow bowls and enjoy! Yum! It takes time, but it's not difficult, and your patience will be rewarded. (And, as I said earlier, you'll have a relatively clean kitchen despite all the pans you used!)
Here's the recipe:
Chanterelle Mushroom Risotto
8 oz. chanterelle mushrooms, washed, trimmed, and cut into one-inch chunks
1 shallot (about 2 oz.) peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place mushrooms and shallot on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and melted butter, then sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Roast in oven until mushrooms are tender and beginning to brown on edges, 12-15 minutes. Use immediately or let stand at room temperature until ready to use, up to 4 hours.
4 ounces bacon -- diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion (8 oz) -- peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 bunch (10-12 oz.) red chard
2 cups arborio (short-grained white) rice
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups fat-skimmed chicken broth
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
In a 12-inch frying pan with 2-in-tall sides or a 5-quart pan over medium-high heat, stir bacon until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Discard all but about 1/2 tablespoon bacon fat from pan.
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to medium and stir frequently until onion is very soft and browned, 20 to 25 minutes (if onion starts to scorch, reduce heat further and stir in 2 tablespoons water).
Meanwhile, rinse chard. Trim and discard stem ends. Thinly slice stems cross-wise and coarsely chop leaves. In a 5- to 6-quart pan over high heat, bring about 3 quarts water to a boil. Add chard and cook, stirring occasionally, until stems are tender-crisp to bite, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain, place in a large bowl of ice water until cool, and drain again.
Add rice to onions and stir until opaque, about 3 minutes. Add wine and stir over medium heat until absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 6 cups broth, a cup at a time, stirring after each addition until almost absorbed, 20-25 minutes total (rice should be tender to bite).
Stir in cheese, butter, bacon, chard, and roasted mushrooms. If risotto is thicker than desired, stir in a little more broth. Spoon risotto into wide, shallow bowls.