Chanterelles are incredibly beautiful choice wild mushrooms that may be purchased in a specialty market, however, it is becoming increasingly more common for people to hunt for their own wild mushrooms like we do!
Chanterelle Chowder is a fabulous way to use these tasty mushrooms. They add great flavor to the creamy sauce and interestingly take on a similar look and texture to clams when prepared in this way, enhanced with a small amount of clam broth.
Foraging for wild mushrooms has become a new trending hobby for many people, myself included. We started foraging for mushrooms about 3 years ago.
Disclaimer here: Get a positive ID on any mushroom you intend to eat and then cook them thoroughly. Very few wild mushrooms can be consumed raw and some mushrooms do take a considerable amount of cooking to prepare so that they are digestible as well as tasty. Do your homework on anything you forage to avoid gastrointestinal distress, liver or kidney damage, when in doubt, throw it out.
That said, you probably wouldn't eat every berry you find in the wild but you sure might consider the blackberries or perhaps the wild salmon berries we find here in Oregon. The trick is to be knowledgeable about the organism you are harvesting. Most of us are familiar with blackberries wild or not. Chanterelles can be very easy to identify as well. They grow on the ground, not in a tree or on a log. They have false gills or veins, not gills. If you look closely at these gorgeous Chanterelles you will see what I mean. They are a raised bump and not at all blade like. The color varies some but all in all they are white, yellow, apricot to almost orange. When you pull them apart they string almost like string cheese.
When we bring them home, we usually use paper grocery bags because the species we find here, mostly Cantharellus Californicus, are quite large and often very wet. You can see how 4 or 5 of these nearly fill a standard size bag.
We try to clean them off with a dry brush and a knife as well as possible before bagging. I have an Opinel mushroom knife and highly recommend one if you do any foraging. It has a brush on one end and a specially designed very sharp knife on the other. After getting them home, I store them in the same bags outside in our garage overnight as it's usually quite cool in the fall and it doesn't dry them out like the environment in a refrigerator will. This gives me some time to develop a plan of attack for cooking or preserving them. They are often good for up to 3 days this way.
If you need to put them in a refrigerator, you may want to wash them up and allow them to dry for a short time on sheet pans before wrapping them back up in paper bags for storage. I give them a good blast of water with my kitchen sprayer then use a soft bristled tooth brush and light tapping motions to loosen any stuck on debris. In the last 3 seasons of foraging chants, I've never seen any that were harboring insects. They are quite bug resistant.
You can make this Chanterelle Chowder with any variety of Chanterelles you may have including winter Chanterelles also known as Yellow Foot. These are much smaller but also delicious. Of course you can use this chowder recipe for any other mushroom or veggie or even clams!
The interesting thing about using chanterelles for chowder is that they really do tend to look and feel like clams when prepared this way, chopped into small pieces of similar size of course.
I also use an 8 oz bottle of clam juice to enhance the flavor likeness. You can use another liquid if you'd rather not use the clam juice. I would suggest a broth, dry white wine or milk.
When it comes to adding the cream, I use fat free half and half but feel free to use full on whipping cream or regular half and half. When using milk either whole, 2%, 1% or skim, the chowder tends to be too thin and less white for my taste but it does work. Evaporated milk will also work here but I notice a distinct difference in taste when using it. I've never tried to use a milk alternative like, soy, oat or almond before.
I like to add half of the celery at the start to add flavor to the creamy soup base then add in more chopped celery just before the potatoes. The celery added first will nearly melt away into the soup and later ones will add texture to the chowder without being crunchy.
As for the potatoes, a typical PNW chowder is made with russet potatoes. Peel them and chop them, some into small pieces and some into medium pieces. This means they will cook at different rates and the smaller pieces will mostly dissolve into the cream, thickening the chowder while the larger pieces will remain for bite size chunks of creamy deliciousness.
Here is a step by step look at how I put this chowder together. Click on the images for more info.
This Chanterelle Chowder recipe is so creamy and comforting!
I like to garnish any good chowder with a pat of butter, a splash of dry sherry and a sprinkle of crispy bacon bits. It is highly recommend for this Chanterelle Chowder.
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24-32 oz. chopped chanterelle mushrooms, fresh, frozen or pre-cooked
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 large sweet onion, diced
4 ribs of celery, diced and divided
4 slices cooked bacon, chopped and divided
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
8 oz. clam juice or other liquid of choice
1 1/2 to 2 cups fat free half and half or other cream
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons herb salt blend. Here's a recipe for My Spice Blend
5-6 peeled and chopped russet potatoes
extra butter, and dry sherry for garnish
Bring a large pot or Dutch oven to a medium temperature and add the fresh or frozen chopped chanterelle mushrooms. Allow them to sweat and cook until the liquid has nearly evaporated. If you use precooked chanterelles you can skip this step.
Add the garlic, sweet onion and half of the celery. Stir and cover, stirring occasionally and recovering until the veggies are translucent.
Now stir in half of the chopped bacon and add the butter. Allow the butter to melt then sprinkle on the 1/4 cup of flour. Mix until the flour is incorporated.
Next stir in the 8 oz. clam juice or other liquid and stir until smooth. Then add the fat free half and half or other cream and stir until well blended.
Add the rest of the chopped celery.
Stir in the salt, pepper and herb salt blend then bring the whole pot up to a full simmer while stirring. The Chowder should begin to thicken up after all the ingredients have warmed sufficiently.
Now add in the chopped potatoes and cook at a high simmer until the potatoes are fork tender. About 30 minutes or so. The smaller the pieces, the faster they cook.
When the potatoes are tender, test the chowder for salt and pepper adjusting as needed to suit your taste.
Garnish with a pat of butter, a dash of dry sherry and the bacon bits.