“Nothing more than mushroom identification develops the powers of observation.” – John Cage
My powers of observation are woefully inadequate; the only mushroom I feel comfortable identifying and gathering is the golden chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius). Its sometimes vibrant orange color forms a distinct contrast against the brown earth.These wild mushrooms often grow in symbiotic harmony with beech, spruce, and fir trees and contribute to the health of the trees. Gathering mushrooms is limited by law in the interest of preserving the balance of ecosystems. You are allowed to gather up to 2 kilos per person per day, which seems like a fair amount. A recent gift of much less than 2 kilos of chanterelles kept me busy cleaning, slicing, and sautéing last week.
In Austria, chanterelles are called Eierschwammerln, literally “egg sponges”, and indeed they soak up butter and cream as their name indicates. They also pair well with eggs. Surprisingly enough, Die Prato doesn’t mention them, describing button mushrooms, morels, and truffles instead. However, chanterelles can be substituted for any of these mushrooms in the recipes for soups and sauces.
The readers of this blog who grew up during the Reagan years will remember a series of books for young readers written in the second person. At the bottom of each page, you had to make a choice about what came next. Well, today I offer you a choice of what final form your chanterelles will assume.
Choose your own adventure 186: Kitchen Full of Wild Mushrooms
You gather the following ingredients and get ready to cook with them in your kitchen.
1 Tbs butter
a handful of parsley, chopped
2 handfuls of chanterelles, cleaned, rinsed, the larger ones sliced
2 Tbs heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
You melt the butter in a pan and sauté the onions until translucent. Then you add the parsley and chanterelles, cooking them until they have shrunk and given off some water. Add the cream and continue to cook.
If you decide you feel like pasta, go to A.
If you have a taste for eggs, go to B.
A. Pasta ai finferli
You cook pasta in salted water. When it is done, you mix the pasta with the chanterelle sauce. You sit down to eat the pasta with good bread, a salad, and a glass of wine, ready to enjoy yet another delicious meal.
B. Scrambled eggs with chanterelles
You beat two eggs together with a splash of milk. You add the egg-milk mixture to the chanterelles, stirring and cooking until the eggs are as scrambled as you like them. When you take your first bite of the meal you prepared, you congratulate yourself on a job well done and marvel at how well the taste of eggs and chanterelles go together.
(You read both endings, didn’t you? Ah, how we all cheated with CYOA books!)