Chanterelle Mushrooms Bruschetta

By Elisabetta Ciardullo

Whenever possible, I love to eat food that is in season. It is true that sometimes for reasons related to my work or just because the temptation is too strong, I end up cooking and eating bell peppers in December and butternut squash in July. But I like to think that the food in season tastes better. Which is the case when you buy your provisions at the farmers’ market, while probably in the grocery store the bell pepper has the same provenience every month of the year – and the same taste.

In any case there is always a factor of surprise of the senses when you can taste again a flavor after six or nine months of absolute abstinence: it is inebriating. It’s like going back memory lane.

Well, this is the case for the Chanterelle mushrooms. And it is not a self-imposed rule: chanterelle only grow wild and can only be harvested in the fall – even though of course there are experiments to farm them, and sooner or later we will be able to buy them all year around.

In Italy mushroom foraging is a hobby that affects all generations, so usually from July – August until early November you leave early in the morning for a good and healthy walk in the forest, carefully measuring your steps and scanning the soil around you, hoping to find a delicate mushroom pushing from under a wet leaf. The best days are the ones after a heavy rain, when the sun comes out and temperature rises. Mushrooms grow extremely fast and spoil after one day or two.

Many kinds of mushrooms can grow in a forest, but Chanterelle is always my preferred one, called Finferli in Italian, for its amazing, beautiful gold yellow color. Fascinating how food has so many colors, but this is a different subject.

In any case, the good thing (or bad, depending on your point of view!) is that now you do not have to go foraging, you can buy the mushrooms at some farmers markets (there is often a dedicated stand), or – believe it or not – at Costco. And those are extremely affordable compared to the skyrocketing prices for wild Chanterelle in other fruits and vegetables stores.

Chanterelle can be cooked in different ways, but I think the simplest is the better to get most of their taste. They are very poor in calories (mostly water and some carbs), but very rich in Vitamin B2, Vitamin D and iron.

The recipe I propose today is something I tasted when I was 20 something in Tuscany, during a stay at a bed and breakfast overlooking the hills. The owner had a good harvest that morning, and prepared chanterelle for us for breakfast. The velvety texture of the mushrooms combined with the crunchiness of the bread, the earthy and woodsy flavor – I still think of that breakfast as divine.

Ingredients (4 Servings):
1 pound = 454 grams of carefully rinsed and roughly chopped Chanterelle mushrooms
A bunch of Sage, some Rosemary
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 glass white wine
Salt and pepper, crashed hot pepper, superior extra virgin olive oil
Some rustic bread slices, toasted
1. Rinse the mushrooms under cold water, removing all dirt, pat dry.2. Chop approximately one or two tablespoons of sage, chop the garlic (or leave it whole if you prefer to remove it after cooking) and set aside in a bowl.3. Chop the mushrooms, but not too small. Drizzle with 2 tbsps. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, season with salt and pepper, add crushed hot pepper if desired, add the chopped sage and garlic, mix well.4. Using a non-stick pan, heat up 1-2 tbsps. The oil will not cover the whole surface of the pan.

5. Wait until the oil is hot, then throw the mushrooms in it. Sauté every couple of minutes, refraining from stirring with a wooden spoon, otherwise the delicate mushrooms will become a mash. The total cooking time is approximately ten minutes.

6. When the juices of the mushrooms have evaporated, and when you see that they start to stick to the pan, wait one or two more minutes, this time stir with a spatula to avoid burning, making sure all the good flavors come out during the Maillard reaction. Then drizzle with the white wine, let evaporate, adjust salt and pepper.

7. In the meantime, you will have toasted the bread slices. In your toaster is the simplest way. Or you can turn on the oven at 400F, put the bread on a baking sheet, drizzle with EVOO, and let it brown for 6-8 minutes, flipping it in the mid-time

8. Spread the warm mushrooms on the bread slices, adding the remaining cooking juices as well.

9. Enjoy!!

A Few Notes:

  • Cook the mushrooms in batches if necessary: do not overcrowd the pan. They have to be in one layer maximum.
  • Keep the flame as high as possible without sticking during the cooking time: you don’t want the mushrooms to lose all the moisture, because you will end up with a soup.
  • You can also use a garlic clove to rub it on the bread. I personally prefer to keep the garlic taste very mild, so that it does not overpower the mushrooms.
  • You can use the same recipe to cook Chanterelle to make a pasta sauce, or to serve a side dish.

Elisabetta Ciardullo is the founder of Think Italian! Events. As Personal Chef she is an ambassador of the Italian cuisine and culture, bringing it into the private homes of Americans, as well as to many corporate clients in Los Angeles.