Thursday, November 15, 2012

Opposites Attract and Chanterelles

They say opposites attract. I believe it. In fact, I think my husband and I prove it. We couldn’t be any more different. He’s left brained and analytical. I’m a creative type and completely right brained. He’s practical, and my head’s always in the clouds. He’s quiet, and I chat endlessly. We don’t have any hobbies in common either. I’m a bookworm and love to shop, which he barely tolerates. He prefers sporty outdoor activities, activities which have often resulted in bodily injury (including one concussion) to me. It can be hard for us to find ways to spend time together.

But there is one thing we’re equally passionate about: foraging for mushrooms.

We both get excited when the fall weather comes, bringing with it the chanterelles. We both eagerly anticipate the thrill of the hunt, and we both fantasize about the size of our haul and the delicacies we will cook with it. The long drive into the woods, the bushwhacking in the cold rain, and the scouring of every inch of forest floor are things that we both enjoy. And of course, we both absolutely love the part where we devour the mushrooms. Now that’s what I call “quality” time together.

Chanterelle Ragu
Printable Recipe

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds chanterelles, diced
4 slices bacon, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup white wine
1 cup milk
1 14 ½-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
Generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt

Heat a large, heavy pot over high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pot. Add a third of the chanterelles and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, or until tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chanterelles to a plate. Sauté the remaining chanterelles in the same manner and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the bacon to the pot, and fry, tossing frequently, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until rendered. Add the onion and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, or until soft. Add the celery and carrot and sauté for another 5 to 6 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and tomato paste and sauté 2 to 3 minutes more, or until fragrant. Add the wine and simmer for a minute or so, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a heat-proof spatula. Return the chanterelles to the pot and add the milk in thirds, simmering for 2 to 3 minutes, or until nearly dry, after each addition. Add the tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, nutmeg, and a generous pinch of pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour, or until thickened and saucy and the flavors come together. Discard the bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes enough for 8 to 10 portions of pasta or polenta, which absolutely must be topped with plenty of grated Parmegiano-Reggiano. If you want to go all out, use this to make Lasagna Bolognese. When working with chanterelles, I usually prefer to tear them into bite-size pieces, but I chose to dice them here so that the texture of the finished ragu would more closely resemble Ragu Bolognese.

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