Wilted Spinach Salad with Chanterelles

Available this week at the market: Chanterelle Mushrooms. The golden child of the mushroom world, chanterelles are known for their beautiful yellow-orange color, their rarity (they’re available fresh only in the summer and early fall), and most of all, their flavor—a subtle balance of black pepper, butter, apricot, and earth notes. Their size can vary from tiny blossom-like specimens to impressive 5-inch trumpets (fresh versions can weigh up to two pounds). Their rich flavor pairs well with eggs and cream sauces.
How to choose:
When choosing fresh chanterelles, look for a fragrant, apricot-like odor and a golden color. Look for chanterelles that feel firm, with no soft or slimy spots; the gill-like ridges under the cap should be intact. Fresh chanterelles have a pronounced apricot- or peach-like scent. They lose a lot of flavor when dried, so avoid dried or powdered chanterelles.

How to store:
Chanterelles stored in a paper bag or a bowl loosely covered with a kitchen towel last up to a week in the refrigerator. They can also be sautéed, cooled, and then frozen for up to a year.
Chanterelles can be used in any recipe calling for mushrooms, but they do best in dishes where they’re the star. Many of the flavor compounds in chanterelles are fat soluble, so they are wonderful cooked in butter or cream and served over pasta or on toast. They make a decadent mushroom soup or cream sauce, as in the Roast Chicken with Chanterelles and Peas below, and they’re great in risotto, or egg dishes like omelets, quiches, and frittatas.
Chanterelles pair well with white wine and aromatic fresh herbs like thyme, tarragon, and chervil. Their peppery flavor is good with sweet onions or shallots; hazelnuts or pine nuts accent their nutty notes. Red meat can overpower chanterelles, but they are delicious with fish, poultry, or pork.

Give this recipe a try, most of the ingrendients are available at the market.

Serves 4 as a first course

For color and taste contrast, golden chanterelles and deep-green spinach are a great combination . Serve on warm plates and garnish with wedges of egg, if you like.

  • 1/2 pound chanterelles, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 5 bacon slices, chopped
  • 1 pound spinach
  • 5 green onions, diced
  • 5 radishes, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons dry red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 hard-cooked egg, cut in wedges (optional)

Parboil the chanterelles for 3 to 5 minutes. Drain. Marinate the chanterelles in the lemon juice for 15 minutes.

In a large sauté pan or skillet, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan.

Clean and wash the spinach in several changes of water. Cut away tough stems. Dry the spinach well and mix with the green onions, radishes, and marinated chanterelles.

Heat the bacon fat in the pan. Add the vinegar and bacon and, while still hot, pour it over the spinach mixture and toss. Serve on warm dishes and garnish with wedges of egg.

–Louise Freedman