Mushrooms and More

I am a mushroom lover, something deplored by both members of my own family and certain of my colleagues. The mushroom stand at the farmers’ market is one of my favorite stops, and in August, almost every type of mushroom is available for devouring—porcini, oyster, shiitake, Portobello, puffball, and my favorite, chanterelle.

I first ate chanterelles in Germany, on my honeymoon, and they were a revelation. Both sweet and nutty and utterly themselves, I ordered them at every opportunity, delighting in their burnt orange color, so different than the dark browns and pearls I was used to.

When the first chanterelles of the season appeared at the market this year, Teacherman was out of town. I thought about waiting until he came back to buy some, but couldn’t wait: I bought 6 oz for my very own self.

I barely did anything to them, just swished them through salted water to clean, sautéed them in butter, and scrambled three eggs around them. With the addition of a vinegary salad, it was, as cookbooks of 70 years ago used to say, The Perfect Supper for a Single Girl.

chanterelle scrambled eggs

When Teacherman came home a week later, I was willing to share. (Or rather, I was willing to take another opportunity to eat chanterelles). This time, though, my preparation was more elaborate.

I’d read several recipes for alternative takes on risotto, using different grains, like barley, steel-cut oats, quinoa, or buckwheat groats. I’d been wanting to try the technique using oats, and the flavor of chanterelles seemed as if it would match up well with the oats. I wanted a bit more than just oats and mushrooms, though, and I remembered another recipe I’d seen recently (I don’t remember where) for a sauté of chanterelles and corn, with tarragon. It was a short step to combine the two ideas in my mind, creating oat risotto with chanterelles, corn and tarragon.

I followed the same trajectory as in my original chanterelle outing—swishing the mushrooms clean, then sautéing them in butter with a big pinch of salt. When they were soft, though, I took them out of the pan, and added half a cup of steel-cut oats, stirring to coat them in the butter and the mushroom juices. Once the butter was absorbed, I added vegetable stock in half cup measures, letting the oats absorb the liquid fully before adding anymore. In the end, I added about 2 cups, leaving the oats on the stove for about half an hour. The oats could have taken up a bit more liquid, but I wanted them to be toothsome, rather than mushy.

About five minutes before I wanted to stop cooking the oats, I added the chanterelles and half a cup of corn kernels, cut off the cob, letting them simmer and warm through. I added a few sprigs of chopped tarragon, then turned off the heat.

It was, I think, absolutely perfect. Both oats and chanterelles have a sweet nuttiness, and, as I thought, the two flavors blended very well. The corn added another layer of sweetness, but brighter, the butter added depth, and the grassiness of the tarragon grounded the dish firmly in the savory sphere.

We served the risotto with herb-marinated grilled chicken, but I could have happily left the chicken off the plate, so satisfying was the combination of flavors and textures. It was nubbly, soothing, delicious, and made me wish I’d made double the portion I did.
chanterelles

Published in: on August 28, 2008 at 7:52 pm  Leave a Comment