The hour is upon us. The recipe books are off the shelf and planning has begun for one of the most spectacular food days of the year. Or not. I do love this holiday, but I am a bit of a traditionalist. I pull out the familiar recipes that I love and don’t ever make except at Thanksgiving. I mean who makes cranberry sauce for a fancy dinner party unless it’s Thanksgiving? I do have several recipes that I shared last year a little too late for anyone to use, so here’s my Thanksgiving Turkey post. But enough said about Thanksgiving. What I want to write about today is something I’m thankful for: chanterelles. It’s mushroom season here in the Northwest and I have been lucky enough to head out to the woods a few times and find some. Last weekend was the more notable journey. I went with 3 other women, their only link being me. I took a chance and put the overnight trip together hoping that everyone would be compatible. It was a bit of a risk since we were all staying together in what turned out to be a tiny, one-room cabin with a kitchen and spent the day walking around in the woods in the rain. But, gratefully, all of us share a passion for being outdoors and good rain gear, so it worked. And even better, we struck gold and found lots of beautiful chanterelles. It is like hunting for treasure in the forest when you go searching for mushrooms. You search and search in the moss and that sudden sight of a little golden top peeking through the green is truly a thrill, especially if you start to spot another little head and another one and another one. We brought our treasure happily back to our cabin, creatively hung all our clothes around the room to dry and made a spectacular pasta dinner. The windows steamed as we drank wine, dried off and feasted on our bounty. And while I said I was thankful for chanterelles earlier, what I’m truly thankful for is that there are at least 3 other hardy women out there who can find pleasure spending a day in the forest wandering around in the rain and I’m lucky enough to know them.
1 lb or so chanterelles, brushed clean and thickly sliced
1 large shallot, diced
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup cream
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper
2 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped roughly
1 lb penne pasta
1. Put a pot of heavily salted water on to boil.
2.Put a large skillet on high heat for one minute. Add 1 tbsp or so of olive oil and when hot, add 1 tsp of the shallots and a healthy pinch of the rosemary. Stir and add about 1/4 -1/2 of the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. It’s important not to crowd the pan, so put in enough to barely cover the bottom of the pan and cook all of them in batches in the same way. Stir the mushrooms, allowing them to render off their liquid and then continue cooking until they get nicely browned. As you cook the batches, use a bit of shallot, rosemary and salt with each, but keep about 2 tsp of shallots and 1/2 tbsp of rosemary back for the sauce. Put the mushrooms in the oven on low heat as you cook the batches. Set aside while you make the sauce.
3. When mushrooms are done, put the pasta in the pot to cook while you make sauce.
4. In the same pan you cooked the mushrooms, add a little olive oil if needed and then add the rest of the shallots and rosemary. Allow to soften for a minute or two and then add the white wine and 1/2 tsp of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Allow the wine to reduce to about 1/2 a cup. Add the cream and allow to reduce a little. Then add the butter and stir until melted and combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Take off the heat and gently fold in the mushrooms and Italian parsley.
5. When pasta is done, serve topped with mushroom sauce. And may you have good friends to savor and share this meal with!