Chanterelle, fennel and cherry tomato sauté
As October arrives, wild mushroom season in the Pacific Northwest is peaking: lobster, porcini, Matsutake, chicken-of-the-wood, even some rare blue chanterelles can be spotted. Yellow chanterelles have been in the markets since mid summer. Extremely dry and nutty in flavor at the start of their season, fall chanterelles begin to take on water with the first rains, adding to their weight and thus, price per pound! The cost of mushrooms usually drops as more come into the marketplace in the following months.
To clean them, use a clean, dry cloth to gently brush pine needles and forest debris from the mushrooms. Alternatively, if they are very dirty, the mushrooms might need a quick 3-minute soak in cold water followed by a spin; a salad spinner is an effective tool for removing dirt and excess water. Because the moisture needs to be removed from fall chanterelles, the cooking technique changes and they need more time in a hot pan or the oven, to dry them out.
I have an abundance of yellow cherry tomatoes in my garden at this time of year--more then I can use, actually. Late season cherry tomatoes have a little bit more water, which becomes a flavorful cooking liquid that they release when heat is applied.
This sauté blends simple flavors, combining chanterelles, cherry tomatoes, fennel, and shallots. Save the feathery fennel tops (the fronds), coarsely chop them, and fold them into the sauté at the very end of the cooking time.
If you live in the Portland area and would like a contact for purchasing wild mushrooms, I recommend Rick's Wild Mushrooms. You can place an order on his website, or call him at 360.213.5158 and arrange a time and place purchase. Rick can also be found at the Saturday Portland Farmers Market from 8:30 am till 2 pm or the Saturday Vancouver Farmers Market from 9 am until 3 pm.
makes 4 servings
1 medium bulb fennel, outer layer removed or peeled with a vegetable peeler and fronds reserved
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned (see note above)
1 medium shallot, peeled and thinly sliced thin
1/2 pint (about 20) cherry tomatoes, any color or a mixture
Juice 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Cut the fennel into 1/4-inch thick rings and coarsely chop the fronds to make 1/4 cup. Set aside.
Place a heavy bottomed skillet or sauté pan over medium high heat and add 1-tablespoon olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the fennel rings. Use tongs or a spoon to turn them, browning on all sides, a total of 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the fennel from the pan and set aside.
Add the remaining oil to the pan and return it to medium heat. Once the pan is hot again, add the chanterelles and a pinch of salt, to help draw excess moisture out of the mushrooms.
When the chanterelles have browned and any liquid they let off has evaporated from the pan, add the shallot, tomatoes, cooked fennel and chopped fennel tops. Stir and blend the ingredients well, add the juice of the half lemon and the butter, turn off the heat and cover. Allow the tomato juice to continue to moisten the sauté, 1 to 2 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed.
Spoon onto individual plates and serve as a side dish or as a base for a roasted chicken breast.