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The Queen of the Forest
Golden Chanterelle in the Forest - Northern Michigan
While the Morel mushroom is probably the most widely known of the wild mushrooms, it is the Chanterelle mushrooms which many of the world's great chefs prize above all others.
They are known to the Italians as Girolle and in German they are called Pfifferling. Wherever they are harvested they are prized for their superb flavor.
Chanterelles are only found in the wild. So far, efforts to cultivate Chanterelles have never proved successful.
Tough mild, Chanterelles have that slight spicy edge which is characteristic of things that grow on their own in the forests and fields - something that comes from competing in a natural environment.
The Chanterelle is distinctive in that its flavor is saturated, and stands up well to main ingredients in soups, stews and other main courses.
If you attempt to harvest Chanterelle mushrooms (or any mushrooms) do so with a quality guide and (preferably) an experienced Mushroom hunter companion. There are many organized forays and mushroom hunts across the country.
The texture of the Chanterelle is tender but not "crumbly." It doesn't disintegrate as easily as other mushrooms, and can hold its own decently when tossed, stirred, and sautéed.
From the point of view of a chef, this has its advantages. Cover Chanterelles with cheese and the wild flavor still comes through. Ditto with tomatoes, fish, poultry and meat. The addition of a contrasting but complimentary flavor lends depth, interest and variety to traditional meals.
Served with scallops, Chanterelles are at their best when drizzled with a sauce made from the reduced cooking liquids with wine added.
Selection in the Store
Fresh Chanterelles should be clean and (almost) dry to the touch. The aroma should be fruity - like fresh Apricots. Little bits of the woods (a pine needle or some moss) may be seen - just pick it out. These are from the woods, after all.
To clean Fresh Chanterelles it is best to brush them and pick off any dirt unless they are very dirty. If washing is required do so immediately before use to avoid storing wet mushrooms.
Occasionally you may find a few tiny insect larvae munching on the inside of your Chanterelles. Dunk the mushrooms in salted water for a few minutes before cooking. If a few remain consider them extra protein. Unless there are a lot, don't think about it, just cook and enjoy.
Wild Leeks in Northern Michigan Forest
is sponsored by Earthy Delights.