Wild Mushroom Season and Best Ever Wild Mushroom Risotto!
Mushrooms are my favourite thing about fall and a consolation prize for all the rainy days here in coastal BC. After a very dry summer, the rain has come with a vengeance and the mushrooms have started popping up like crazy. Little jewels in the mossy forest 🙂 and they're FREE! Who doesn't want some free food?!?!
Learning To Forage For Wild Mushrooms
I first learned to pick mushrooms from my dad and although we picked quite a few varieties over the years the type I pick the most now are chanterelle mushrooms. They are easy to find, identify, don't have very close look-alikes that are poisonous and they are very delicious. Others I have picked on Vancouver Island are oysters, shaggy manes, lobster (my very favourite for eating) and morels though I have a harder time finding these ones. I have picked boletes and cauliflower mushrooms with my dad but am not confident ID-ing them on my own. The Homesteading Huntress has a great post about harvesting wild mushrooms with many more links to identifying and finding them if you're interested.
*Please note that wild mushrooms should always be cooked before eating and never eat any mushrooms you have not been able to identify 100%.
BC is a great place for mushroom picking and if you have the time you can pick a lot and sell them to the mushroom buyers that set up shop during mushroom season. I had an aunt and uncle who would fund their yearly trip to Mexico by mushroom picking!
Chanterelles Are Ridiculously Simple And Easy To Cook
There are many ways to cook wild mushrooms and really you can just use any mushroom recipe that appeals to you but for chanterelle mushrooms I recommend a recipe that really highlights their flavor without overpowering them and also showcases their beautiful texture. They are more tender than store bought white mushrooms and have a sweet, earthy flavor that really tastes like fall to me.
For the first mushrooms of the year, I always saute them gently in butter with a little salt and sometimes garlic. Served with a side of crusty bread and a glass of white wine, it heralds the arrival of fall and puts me in the mood to start appreciating the rain. A few other ways I use them are in soup (a no-brainer), on top of salad, in a white lasagna, on crostini, in stuffing for turkey, and in pasta. (Follow West Coast Kitchen Garden on Instagram to see what else I'm cooking up with these mushrooms!) Some of my favourites are Wild Mushroom Soup and Cauliflower Mushroom Gratin.
Make Like A Squirrel And Store Up For Winter
To store for the winter there are multiple ways to preserve. Some mushrooms are good for drying but chanterelles seem to lose a lot of flavor this way and don't keep quite as nice a texture. For storing the chanterelles, I clean them, coarsely chop and saute them, pack them into freezer bags or containers with some stock or butter to cover and freeze. I've had a lot of success with this method.
Sometimes A Classic Recipe Is The Best Recipe
Today's recipe is a fairly classic risotto. I have kept the flavor profile simple so you can really taste the unique flavor of the wild mushrooms and then garnished the top with some browned and slightly crispy ones for a concentrated flavor on top. I hope you get a chance to get out mushroom picking this year or procure some at your local farmers market or grocery store because they really are a seasonal treat.
Classic Chanterelle Mushroom Risotto
- ½ medium Shallot, Finely Chopped
- 1 clove Garlic, Minced
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 3 c Chanterelle Mushrooms, Cut Into ½" Pieces Or other wild mushrooms
- ½ tsp Each, Salt And Pepper
- ½ c Dry White Wine (Unoaked) I used 40 Knots Unoaked Chardonnay
- 1 Large Sprig Thyme
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1 c Arborio Rice A short grain variety of rice is imperative
- 3 c Vegetable Stock, Kept Hot In Pot On Stove Or Microwaveable Measuring Cup Could also use chicken or mushroom stock
- ½ c Parmesan, Packed Grated About ¼ c before grating
- ¼ c Heavy Cream
- ½ c Parsley, Finely Chopped
- 1 tbsp Butter
- In a fairly large (12" diameter +/-) saute pan, heat oil on medium and add shallots and garlic. Cook until translucent and then add 2 c mushrooms reserving 1 c for the topping.
- Saute mushrooms until liquid is reduced and absorbed, then add salt, pepper and white wine and reduce wine by half.
- Reduce heat to medium low. Add in rice and stir until liquid is absorbed.
- Next add the thyme and bay leaf and start adding the hot vegetable stock. Add about ½ c, stirring frequently until liquid is absorbed, then add another ½ c of hot stock, stir and repeat until rice is al dente. (Approximately 20-25 min) You may not need the full 3 cups so test the rice after 20 min or when you've used 2.5 c of the stock and adjust accordingly.
- Turn heat to lowest setting and add the Parmesan, cream and parsley and stir until incorporated and melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper and turn heat off.(Risotto should be a fairly loose consistency, if it gets too thick while waiting to serve, simply add in a little more hot veggie stock to correct.)
- Meanwhile, melt butter on medium in a small pan and then add the reserved mushrooms and saute until some start to get browned with a few crispy edges.
- To serve, spoon into bowls, top with browned mushrooms and garnish with more thyme or parsley if desired. Mushroom risotto can be served as a vegetarian main course or a perfect side dish for roast chicken.
- This is great with a dry minerally white wine like a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Blanc as well as Chardonnay. Although you should not use an oaky wine in the risotto, it would be a great pairing to drink with the risotto as it would play well off the rich butter and cheese flavours. (I enjoyed a locally grown and made unoaked Chardonnay from 40 Knots located in the Comox Valley with this)