Crispy Chanterelles

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I feel a little elitist posting this recipe because most chanterelles that you’ll find at a market or store will likely cost you $20 a pound (or more). This is because they are very hard to cultivate commercially and therefore mainly sold by people who forage for them, which is very time consuming. But they’re so incredibly tasty to eat that I felt beholden to post a recipe in the off-chance anyone gets their hands on some of these fancy fungi.

Fortunately for me, my brother- and sister-in-law found a hefty supply of chanterelles on their property during the rainy season the last couple of years, sending us pictures of baking trays full of the frilly yellow ‘shrooms. Last year we finally went with them on a trek through the woods, learning to keep a keen eye out for flashes of gold amidst the thick layer of dead leaves whilst trying not to slide down the steep hillside. Prying the mushrooms’ thick stems from the sodden earth, we’d add each meaty nugget to the communal basket until we had quite a pile. We learned to discard the ones too soggy from the rain, which wouldn’t cook up well.

Pat, my brother-in-law, brought their share of the haul into their kitchen, cleaned them, and shredded them by hand into a large skillet coated with homemade lard (Pat and Taz are the ones we shared half a pig with, and the lard we’ve made from the fat is incredible). He cooked the chanterelles for a long time, letting them brown and crisp in the pan, then sprinkled it all with salt and offered them up for a taste. My first thought when I tried them was, “They taste like maple syrup!” Sweet, earthy, salty, and utterly addicting, I couldn’t help but reach back into the pan for more.

The weather has been confusing lately, one day being in the high 80s and the next feeling like the first cool breath of Fall. Those colder days have me looking ahead to the next season, with rainy days on the horizon and, hopefully, another successful chanterelle foraging mission. If you’re lucky enough to know someone who forages for chanterelles, or you forage yourself, or you’re just in a treat-yourself kind of mood and splurge on a pound or two, make this recipe. It’s versatile—you can put the cooked mushrooms on whatever takes your fancy—but also a real treat to simply eat out of a hot pan when the weather’s cool.

Disclaimer: if you’re foraging for mushrooms, please, please do your research and make sure you aren’t picking up any poisonous imposters. And if you are gifted some from a forager, make sure you trust their judgement! Chanterelles are pretty easy to pick out from look-alikes, but just use common sense and double check that you got the right ones.

Crispy Chanterelles

Serves 4

3 tbsp lard (or butter, but if you can use lard please give it a try)
2 1/2 lbs chanterelle mushrooms
1/4 tsp fine sea salt, plus more to taste

If your chanterelles are dirty, right before cooking wash them in water as little as possible but just enough to get them free of dirt. Place them to drain a bit on a kitchen towel while you finish cleaning. Trim the ends of the mushrooms if necessary (once again, if they’re really dirty) and shred them with your hands into pieces no wider than half an inch (the length isn’t important).

Heat 3 tbsp lard in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat until very hot. Drop your shredded mushrooms into the pan and toss to coat, then let them cook for a couple of minutes. Stir every now and then—you want the mushrooms to crisp and brown, but not burn, so adjust your stirring intervals and/or heat as needed. Continue cooking the mushrooms for about 40-50 minutes, until very brown and quite crispy. Toss with 1/4 tsp fine sea salt, taste, and add more salt as needed.

These mushrooms are wonderful on pizza, with burrata on toast, with eggs, with pasta or polenta. But they’re also addicting to eat straight up, hot out of the pan. Enjoy!

Note: you can make this recipe and freeze them for later. Simply spread the cooked chanterelles on a baking sheet and place in the freezer. Once frozen, scrape them off the pan and pile them into a large plastic bag. They will keep for a month or two in the freezer.

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