Chanterelle mushrooms, for most, are one of the highlights of summertime. Starting in June in the Deep South, they march northwards through the East and Midwest into Canada, where the fabled little chanties of Saskatchewan start popping in August.
Here in the West, where I live, chanterelles tend to be more of a winter thing, a bright spot in often rainy, gloomy winters. That’s when I designed this simple chanterelle recipe. It’s an Italian risotto, a sort of a rice porridge loaded with chanties and their summer lover, sweet corn.
One of the keys to cooking chanterelles is to remember that they like sweet corn, thyme, butter and cream. So no matter how you cook your chanties, remember this and you’re on your way to a great meal.
Risotto, if you’ve never made it, needs to be made with Mediterranean varieties of rice. Most often arborio, you can also use carnaroli, vialone nano, baldo and even Spanish bomba rice. Arborio is widely available all over the country, and is grown extensively in Texas and California. Let me reiterate: You can’t make risotto without one of these types of rices. So no long-grain rice, OK?
Once you have the rice, you make a risotto by slowly adding water or stock, stirring often, so the special starches in this kind of rice slough off and make a creamy sauce.
Risotto can feature anything, but I really like doing it with mushrooms. I have whole separate recipes for porcini risotto and morel risotto, in fact. Risotto needs to be restrained to be good — only a few ingredients, so you can appreciate them — and using ‘shrooms as one of those ingredients puts them front and center; most mushroom recipes are really about something else, with the mushrooms playing a supporting role.
The end result is smooth, comforting. The chanterelles play the part of meat, the rice is cooked through but each grain distinct, the corn gives you bursts of sweetness. A light stock (I use pheasant or quail stock) builds body, and lots of grated cheese fill out the flavors.
While I designed this as a chanterelle risotto, nothing will go wrong if you use other mushrooms. Chanties and corn really love each other, though. Only chicken of the woods has an affinity for corn like chanterelles. Also, be sure to use a risotto rice like Arborio.
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 shallot, minced (or 1/2 cup minced onion)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 pound chanterelle mushrooms, diced
- 2 cups risotto rice (arborio, carnaroli, etc)
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 6 cups chicken or other light stock
- 1 cup sweet corn kernels
- 1/4 cup grated cheese (pecorino or parmesan)
Bring the chicken or other stock to a gentle simmer in a pot. Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in another pot and cook the shallot over medium heat until it softens, about 4 minutes. Salt it as it cooks.
Add the garlic and diced chanterelles and turn the heat to medium-high. Stirring often, cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook another 2 minutes or so. You want the rice to get a little translucent.
Pour in the white wine and add the thyme. The pot will sputter. Stir constantly until the rice has absorbed the wine.
Once the wine has been absorbed, start adding the hot stock, a ladle or two at a time. You want to stir the rice often at this point, about every other minute or so. Keep it bubbling and boiling at a steady heat -- normally this means keeping the burner at medium. Keep adding stock and stirring often until the rice is cooked, but still a little al dente at the center, about 20 minutes.
When the rice is nearly done, stir in the corn and grated cheese and add the final 2 tablespoons of butter. You want this to be a bit soupy, so add more stock. If you're out of stock, add water. Add salt to taste and serve.