Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Creamy Chanterelles on Toast--Fall Squares from the Wild

This was supposed to be a very seasonal post. You may ask what is so seasonal about bread? Nothing, but my original idea for the opening photo did not work.

I meant to make a post about chanterelles, wild mushrooms that are my fall favorites, and very Polish at the same time. I am not sure if many people, with the exception of the French, even know what I am taking about. Chanterelles are used in many rather exquisite dishes, as they are seasonal and grow only in the wild. You can buy them in certain food stores, and maybe even in your local supermarket. They are available at Whole Foods Market at this time of the year, but at a whooping price of almost 40 dollars a pound, which seems an exaggeration, even to such an amateur of chanterelles as myself. They also appear seasonally at Costco, for about 7 dollars a pound, harvested in Canada, but I did not manage to take a picture of them fresh. I promise I will if I buy them again this fall.

I usually buy many boxes of chanterelles in the season, fry them, and freeze. This way, whenever I feel like cooking something with them, I have them always at hand. In Poland we prepare chanterelles in many different ways. We eat them fried in a creamy sauce and serve with potatoes as a dish in itself, we make scrambled eggs with chanterelles, we make pasta with them, and add them to meat sauces. Here, since they are such a rarity, I serve them usually with veal, and only to those those guests who I am sure will appreciate their taste. Since they are part of my culinary heritage, to me, serving them, is not a snobbish thing to do, but rather it is part of the "back to basics" philosophy, which inspires many chefs to rediscover the seasonal and naturally grown food.

This said, the recipe I share today is not a traditional one, but since I do not get to eat chanterelles as often as I would wish, I decided to prepare them in the most attractive way I could.

Creamy Chanterelles on Toast
(Serves six)

6 slices of white toasting bread with the crust trimmed off,
1 pound chanterelles,
3 shallots,
1 cup heavy whipping cream,
1 bunch green asparagus,
1/2 cube vegetable bouillon,
2 tbsp butter for the toasts,
2 tbsp butter for frying,
salt and freshly ground pepper.

1. In each piece of bread cut a small square (see picture) and spread butter thinly on each side.

2. Toast the bread in an oven until gold.
3. Wash thoroughly the chanterelles, cut them into smaller pieces, and fry them on melted butter for about 5-8 minutes, until all the water disappears and they start becoming dry.
4. Add cream to the the pan with chanterelles, crush in half a cube of vegetable bouillon, add salt and pepper. Simmer for about 5-7 minutes. At this point, you can add a little bit of water if the sauce becomes too thick.
5. Cut out about 1/3 from the asparagus and blanch them in boiling water for about 3 minutes--they should be al dente and still green.They can be made ahead and serve cold.
6. On the individual plates arrange pieces of bread and decorate with asparagus.
7. Spread chanterelle sauce equally between toasts, making sure that it fills in the square holes.
8. Serve warm.

These toasts can be served with white wine as elegant dinner appetizers. The initially crunchy toasts will become soft and mushy from the creamy sauce. A friend who recently tried it, commented that he would wish to have it served at his wedding. Would you?