Just before the big rains hit last weekend (almost 2″ in about as many days), my brother Brad and his wife, Jian, dumped several pounds of gorgeous, golden chanterelles on our doorstep. Without hesitation, I began spreading them out on newspaper so that they wouldn’t get soggy. When I am ready to cook, I begin by sauteing them, or heating them in a skillet to cook off the water they contain. This is a good way to concentrate the flavors. Once the excess water is removed, wine, white or red, can be added to create the foundation of a lovely sauce that can be used on pasta, meat dishes or as base for soup. Just add a little salt and pepper, some butter perhaps, and extend with creme fraiche or sour cream.
I picked up my basic knowledge of wild mushroom preparation from my husband, Nigel Foster, a veteran outdoors man and amateur mycologist from way back. Together we have hunted many a kilo of chanterelles during autumn kayaking trips in Sweden. To this day, I have yet to find a chanterelle in my home state of Washington, although they are abundant in the Pacific Northwest. Every fall, I purchase them for a good price at local Asian markets. Chanterelles are a gourmet treat that can be had for free, if one takes the initiative to seek them. With an absolutely singular flavor, and among the richest sources of vitamin D known, the delicious chanterelle is a signal to me that autumn has arrived. I enjoy them fresh while I can and make sure to dry a few to savor later on in the winter when their prime has passed!