A nutty, meaty mushroom with an irregular cap shape and a golden color, chanterelle mushrooms are a treat for any cook. Chanterelles, also known as golden chanterelles or egg mushrooms, grow in Europe, Asia and the United States. While European and Asian versions are small, in the U.S., some frilled caps weigh up to 2 pounds. Cooking chanterelles brings out their light, fruity aroma and flavor, a flavor that some cooks liken to apricots.
Chanterelles are generally in season from the middle of summer through the fall. Harvest your own from under beech trees or conifers, but unless you're a mycologist, finding fresh chanterelles at a farmer's markets on the East or West Coast or purchasing them from a specialty grocery store is easier and safer. They carry a much higher price tag than your average white mushroom, so purchase specimens that are at their peak. Look for bright gold or orange mushrooms with a fruity fragrance and an absence of dark spots or slime. The gills should be firm and not peeling away from the mushroom cap or stem.
The frilly nature of the chanterelle cap makes cleaning a challenge. Dirt hides in the crevices and requires a bit of work to remove. Like all mushrooms, you want to limit the amount of water used, or they'll become mushy and sodden. A small brush, such as a clean toothbrush, can help you lightly dry scrub the surface of the caps. Get into the space between the gills by gently brushing while holding the mushroom under running water. Avoid soaking the mushrooms. Store cleaned mushrooms for a few days if you've dried them thoroughly on paper towels; otherwise, it's best to store them uncleaned in waxed paper or a brown paper bag for up to a week. Slice large mushrooms with a serrated knife, but small mushrooms may be kept whole.
Chanterelle mushrooms make a simple, but elegant, side dish when sauteed with butter or olive oil and garlic. Heat a saute pan over medium heat, and add olive oil or butter and minced garlic, cooking just until fragrant. Toss in sliced mushrooms and cook 3 to 4 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and emit a fruity aroma. The sauteed mushrooms may be tossed into linguine or added to a cream sauce. Make the saute with a variety of other wild mushrooms to serve alongside roast meats. Toss large pieces of whole chanterelles with olive oil and salt and roast in a 350-degree F oven for 20 minutes, or until cooked through. Roasted chanterelles pair well with roast chicken or a medley of other roast vegetables.
Many mushrooms can be successfully dried and reconstituted to add flavor and texture to dishes. Drying chanterelles isn't as successful, though, as the rehydrated versions tend to lack the flavor of fresh and take on a rubbery texture. If you do have dried chanterelles, soak them overnight and use the soaking liquid along with the mushrooms in your recipe to maximize the mushroom flavor. Risotto, cream sauces and soups are recipes that are may work well with dried chanterelles. Once you've sauteed chanterelles with onions or garlic, the mixture can be frozen. The defrosted mushrooms will retain most of their flavor and work well in soups and sauces.