If Porcini are the kings of the mushroom world, chanterelles are its queen.
There are several varieties of chanterelle, ranging from the white to the cinnabar to the various yellow ones. Golden chanterelles are the most common variety of chanterelle here in the West, and those in the Pacific Northwest can start getting them in July. Here they don’t really pop until October, although you can go up to Humboldt and dodge the pot farmers for them in September.
Golden chanterelles are far less meaty and are more delicate than porcini, or really most any other common edible mushroom. Chanterelles taste floral and smell fruity, although I could not quite pick up the apricot notes many say golden chanterelles possess.
To me, chanterelles are less of a beef-venison-duck mushroom than a wild boar-pheasant-fish mushroom. Think white wine instead of red.
When cooking with mushrooms in general — and golden chanterelles in specific — lean towards butter as a cooking medium. Mushrooms enjoy a bath in butter far more than they do a dip in any other sort of fat or oil. I defy you to not swoon when you smell chanterelles, garlic and bacon sizzling in a pan of hot butter.
Butter is nice, but butter and cream are better. This chanterelle soup is an ode to the grand master of classic French cooking, Auguste Escoffier and his culinary bible, Le Guide Culinaire — it is, in essence, a cream of mushroom soup.
But this ain’t your mama’s cream of mushroom soup, folks. No packets here, no cans, either. This is the real deal. Remember how the wicked chef in the movie “Ratatouille” rolled his eyes back in his head when he tasted Remy’s soup? This is that kind of soup. And this is about as classic French as it gets.
This is, dear readers, the Sexiest Soup in the World: Escoffier’s Cream of Chanterelle Soup.
The flavor hammers you with chanterelle’s beguiling flavor, backed with a whiff of saffron, the creamy mouthfeel of a classic veloute (stock whisked with a blond roux), and a slightly slutty wink from the dash of Armagnac I put in, all given added heft from a liaison of cream and egg yolks. Folks, this is what you want to eat right before a romp with Bella — fleas be damned.
Veloute, you say? Liaison? If you’ve dusted off your Mastering the Art of French Cooking, you may have recently been reminded of these terms, or if you are classically trained you may be having flashbacks.
Veloute (vel-oo-TAY), is easy. It’s a mixture of hot stock and a roux made from equal parts flour and butter. You must whisk in the stock to get the mixture to set correctly, which, when it does, makes a broth that looks like liquid satin.
Liaison is a bit harder, but only a bit. It is an ancient method of thickening a soup, by adding a mixture of beaten egg yolks and cream (the Greeks make avgolemono by adding a mixture of egg yolks and lemon). The trick is to temper your eggs so they do not scramble, then never letting the soup boil after the liaison is added.
The result? Not just any old chanterelle soup. This is sex in a bowl.
Escoffier's Chanterelle Soup
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 pound fresh mushrooms, ideally chanterelles
- 2 shallots, minced
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1 shot glass brandy
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron
- Salt to taste
- Make the veloute. Heat the stock to a bare simmer. In another pot, heat the butter until frothing and stir in the flour. Stirring all the while, let this cook for a few minutes over medium heat. Do not let it brown. Whisk the hot stock into the roux and let this simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often. You want it to slowly cook down by at about 1/4 and be silky looking.
- While the veloute is simmering, make the mushroom base. Mince the mushrooms and shallots fine and sweat them in a saute pan over medium heat with a touch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the shallots are translucent and the mushrooms give up their water.
- Crumble the saffron into the brandy and add it to the mushroom base. Turn the heat up to high and toss or stir to combine. Cook until the brandy is nearly gone. Buzz the mushroom base into a puree in a food processor. OPTIONAL: If you want a truly refined French soup, push this puree through a fine-mesh strainer.
- When the veloute is ready, add the mushroom puree and stir well to combine. Cook this at a bare simmer for 10 minutes. OPTIONAL: If you want a mushroom garnish, slice a few chanterelles lengthwise and sear them in an dry pan until they give up their water and brown.
- Beat together the egg yolks and cream, then ladle — a little at a time — some soup base into the egg-cream mixture. This is called a liaison, and you are tempering the eggs with the hot stock slowly, so they do not congeal. Once you have 3 or 4 ladles of soup into egg-cream mixture, pour it all back into the soup and simmer. Do not boil or it will break. OPTIONAL: Put this soup through the fine-mesh strainer again to remove any lumps and return to low heat.
- To finish the soup, turn off the heat and whisk in the remaining butter. Serve with the seared mushrooms in the center, with crusty bread and white wine. Enjoy decadence.