Thud, thud, thud! The knock on the door reverberated as I took my first sip of morning coffee. It was around 7:30 a.m. on a damp October Sunday.
At the door was my friend and colleague Julian Darwin. “Good morning, Chef!” he exclaimed with urgency. “Get your things, we’re going into the forest.”
“What? Why?” I asked.
“For chanterelles, of course!” he announced, his British accent elevating it to a proclamation.
I put my coffee in a thermos, put on my boots and coat, and we were off.
Julian, more than just a chef, has been a mentor to me in many ways. He introduced me to the world of teaching. Before that, our culinary paths crossed, and we’d worked together. European trained, he is an old-school chef with the same work ethic and ideology I learned during my early years in the industry.
Uncharacteristic of many chefs of his generation, Julian is kind, optimistic and even-tempered. We found great comfort in talking for hours about classic preparations like sole d’Egmont, blanquette de veau, or a properly prepared mushroom duxelles. He is forever passionate about great food, great ingredients and the relentless pursuit of them.
“Where are we going for these chanterelles?” I asked.
“If I told you, I’d have to kill you.” he replied with a Bond-like chuckle. Most mushroom foragers never reveal their secret locations.
We headed over the mountains to the western slope of the Cascades. Turning from the highway, we took an unmarked road winding deep into the forest.
As we left the car, I immediately noticed the forest floor was like a beautiful, thickly padded carpet, a dream to walk upon. The years of decay were fragrant as occasional wafts of steam rose from the ground to meet the intermittent rain.
Julian, long-legged and spry, bounded off into the forest, yelping loudly at every golden, funnel-shaped mushroom he found.
It took awhile for my eyes to adjust, but soon the yellow-white mushrooms pushing up the soil became easier to spot. I soon had more of these mycological treasures than I could carry. A couple of hours had passed quickly as I became hypnotized staring at the lush ground.
Julian’s voice broke the spell as he called in the distance that it was time to go. As we traveled home, the heady fragrance of the chanterelles filled the car, prompting us to fantasize about the wonderful things we’d prepare with them.
Chanterelle Mushroom Compound Butter
Makes 12 portions
Clean the chanterelle mushrooms of forest-type debris and finely chop garlic and shallot.
Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat and sauté chanterelles for approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Then add garlic and shallots and cook until they are translucent, approximately 4 minutes more. Remove from heat, add fresh thyme and let cool.
Finely chop sautéed chanterelle mushroom mixture and mix with room-temperature butter. Season with salt and pepper.
To store chanterelle butter, form into a log and roll it in parchment paper or plastic wrap, twisting both ends to make the shape, then store in the fridge or freezer.
This versatile compound butter can be enjoyed on grilled meats such as ribeye steak, steamed vegetables or simply spread on warm bread.