Fall and spring are favorite times of the year in the Pacific Northwest for people like Chef Brian. Mushroom hunting has its similarities to his old ocean diving days where he had to use his "tako eye" to spot those camouflaged octopus hiding in rock and crevices. For those of you who don't know, "tako" is the Japanese word for octopus and this term is the common usage for the locals in Hawaii. However, when we say "tako eye," it means someone is very good at spotting out hard to find items. Anyway, it's a favorite delicacy there, enjoyed flour-coated and fried, or sliced thin and dried. Of course, this IS a vegan blog, so I could get railed for speaking such things here, but much of our background is made up of the things we knew before going plant-based and ethical. So sometimes that's what we draw upon. Back to the mushrooms...
There are several varieties of the Chanterelle in the Pacific NW. Chef Brian's favorite and the more abundant variety is the golden Chanterelle. They are normally found in second growth pine forests and often are hiding beneath a blanket of pine needles and fallen leaves. Now you know why "tako eye" comes in handy! ;-) Golden Chanterelles, or "Channies" as Chef Brian likes to call them, are golden to orange-colored, have a slightly bold, fragrant scent to them made all the stronger with cooking. They are fleshy, and pardon the term, even meaty. They make vegan cooks pass the par of common, all the way to gourmet. So if you come across some of these, don't hesitate to try them and expand your culinary repertoire. As with all wild mushrooms, the warning must be given to NEVER eat any unless positively identified. So you better make sure.
Freshly harvested Chanterelle mushrooms. They must be cleaned well by brushing off the debris. We like using a 1" clean paintbrush. Rinse them only before cooking, never rinse before storing.
Sliced Chanterelle in the iron wok, ready for cooking.
Featured Recipe: Golden Chanterelle in Saffron Cream Sauce
1 lb. fresh Chanterelle mushrooms; cleaned, rinsed and sliced
2 Tbsp. pure olive oil
5 cloves garlic, fine chopped
2 large shallots, thin slice
1/2 cup raw cashews, rinse and drain
1/2 cup filtered water
pinch of saffron threads
1/4 cup water or almond milk
sea salt, to taste
Place saffron threads in water or almond milk and soak. Set aside.
Heat a skillet to medium low heat. Add the mushrooms to the pan. The mushrooms will release its liquid as it is heated. Stir often to prevent charring while allowing the liquid to dissipate.
While the mushrooms are cooking off, place cashews and water in a high-speed blender; processing until very smooth. If you do not have a high-speed blender, then soak the cashews beforehand to soften. This makes blending easier. Set aside the mixture.
Once all the water is removed from mushrooms, place them into a dish. To the same pan, bring it to heat again and add the olive oil, garlic and shallots;saute until golden brown. Add the mushrooms back into the pan, reducing the heat to low. Gradually pour the cashew milk in and then the saffron along with the soaking water to the pan while stirring. The mixture will thicken slightly.
When it is to the desired thickness, reduce the heat to a low simmer. Adjust your flavor with the sea salt, bringing to au sec. If desired, stir in a splash of lemon juice or brown rice vinegar just before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley...and enjoy!