I walk into a restaurant.
I sit down.
Maybe I glance at a menu.
Maybe someone comes by to mention specials.
Maybe there's a chalkboard with a few fresh exclusives on it for the night.
Right around the turn of summer into fall, chanterelle mushrooms begin to pop up in abundance in my part of the world, the southwestern coast of British Columbia, known to residents as the "lower mainland".
And it's my absolute favourite time of the year to eat and to cook. Thanksgiving be damned. Christmas be damned. Truffle season be damned.
The second I hear that chanterelle mushrooms are involved in a dish at any restaurant I go to, I order that dish.
As with many things, there's an element of nostalgia to why I love them so much. From sometime in the mid-1990s, my grandfather, who then lived on Vancouver Island and was a bona-fide bushman, would turn up unannounced at our house sometime in the fall. Most of the time, he'd have with him a large bin of these golden beauties.
Of course, at the time, I had little-to-no interest in these specimens. I was probably 8-9 years old. Not that I didn't appreciate good food back then, but let's face it, I was a snot-nosed little brat. It was all KD and centre-cuts. Sad.
I think it was around the age of 17-18 where I started to really like food. Like, really like it. I remember taking a date to a French restaurant at 19 and ordering wine. I remember cooking rack of lamb for my parents. I remember really starting to think about what I was putting in my body, and a big part of that was the way it tasted when it was crossed my lips.
And it was not too long after that that I became giddy at the prospect of these visits that Milan would make to my childhood home each fall, bin of chanterelles in tow.
It was a more recent mentor-like figure that would bring this appreciation to fruition. John, we'll call him, for the sake of his privacy. A chef proprietor at the only good restaurant in the lower mainland outside of Vancouver-proper's city limits. I wish I was joking. Please enlighten me privately with your corrections and we can have it out. firstname.lastname@example.org. Come at me.
It was this chef, whose wine list I've had the pleasure to consult on over the years, who really showed me how chanterelles can shine on their own.
And it's pretty simple. And really fuckin' tasty.
Each night, almost throughout the year, given availability, John has a feature that never touches ink on the menu involving seasonal mushrooms in a white wine cream sauce with garlic and onions, spilled over either vol-au-vent pastry or toast. Cracked pepper. Et voilà.
I like to sprinkle some chopped parsley on top.
It's great with morels. It's better with chanterelles.
And it's my all-time favourite type of toast. Eggs be damned.
I'm fortunate to live in a 400 sq. ft. studio apartment that literally looks down on a Sunday farmers' market. This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to grab my first big brown bag of the season of these gorgeous funghi from the local forager.
The photo was the ensuing source of a mutual foodgasm that Jessie and I were able to share.
And I wasn't faking it.
As for wines to go along? I've been going hard on British Columbia lately. Classically, Pinot Noir can't be denied. I'd personally favour lighter, savoury, delicate styles as the flavour and texture of the sautéed chanterelles is quite delicate. A simple Bourgogne Rouge would suffice beautifully. Beaujolais-Villages would fit the bill. If you'd like to go outside the realm and predictability of Pinot, you could certainly venture southeast from France into Italy. A Langhe Nebbiolo, perhaps a Roero, would accompany this beautifully. On that note, a white from Piemonte would also serve as a loyal and cuddly companion; something like an Arneis or Gavi di Gavi. Go further east to Veneto, and a light Bardolino in the red category or Soave in the white category might enjoy the scenery on the plate. And without getting too intensive for one post, go with an aged vintage Champagne if your CERB cheque has recently come in the mail. You don't need a special occasion.
Chanterelles are the occasion.
Chanterelle Mushrooms on Toast
What you’ll need:
-1x Clove Garlic -1/4 Medium Sized Onion -1/2 Cup White Wine (something you can also sip on while you cook) -1/2 Cup Whipping Cream -Handful Chanterelle Mushrooms, torn into thinner strips -Thick slice of Rustic White Loaf of choice -Small handful of chopped parsley -Extra Virgin Olive Oil -Sea Salt -Cracked Pepper -Two skillets
1. Season both skillets generously with olive oil and bring to medium heat. Use your instincts.
2. Chop garlic and onion into thin slices and add to pan. Toss, season with sea salt, and let sizzle for 1-2 minutes.
3. Place slice of bread in other skillet. Rub around in oil and drizzle a little more on top. Keep an eye on your toast and flip when crisp to your liking.
4. Add chanterelles to pan with garlic and onions. Toss, season with dash of sea salt. Allow to sizzle for a minute or two.
5. Add white wine to mushrooms. Toss and allow to sizzle and reduce for a couple minutes. The mushrooms should not be submerged, there should be a thin layer of juice on the bottom of the pan that thickens slightly.
6. Check your toast! Reduce heat to avoid burnage while keeping warm if necessary.
7. Reduce heat of mushrooms and slowly add heavy cream while stirring in thoroughly. Once stirred in, you can raise the heat slightly. Allow 2-3 minutes to thicken and reduce.
8. Once mushrooms and sauce has thickened to your satisfaction and the toast is crisp to your liking, choose a nice, clean platter, and pour mushrooms and sauce over the toast.
9. Garnish with sea salt, cracked pepper, and chopped parsley.
10. Pour yourself a glass of Kalala Pinot Noir.
11. Savour & enjoy!