Chanterelle mushrooms are found year-round, but their peak season—highest yield, lowest price—is autumn (September is National Mushroom Month).
Meaty wild mushrooms that range in color from orange to yellow-gold, the unusual color is due to the presence of carotenoids, antioxidant pigments that also give color to bell peppers, cantaloupe, carrots, papaya, mangos, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables.
In addition to their color, it’s easy to recognize chanterelles from their wavy caps with ruffled gills that flare upward along the stem—forming a trumpet shape.
They’re prized because they’re different, and not just for their looks. They have an aroma resembling apricots or peaches, and a nutty flavor. They can’t be cultivated but must be gathered by hand. This can make them more expensive, but wild mushrooms are invariably more flavorful than cultivated ones.
Cantharellus cibarius, commonly known as the chanterelle or golden chanterelle, grows wild on the forest floor, in old, deep, “leaf litter.” It grows in quantity along the Pacific Coast of North America, and in temperate forests around the world. (Note: Don’t gather your own in the forest, unless you have had expert training in how to identify them, or can get expert advice prior to consuming them.)
These meaty mushrooms also contain significant amounts of protein, plus chromium, iron, eight essential amino acids, potassium and vitamins A and D2 (the latter helps the body absorb calcium).
USING CHANTERELLE MUSHROOMS
Chanterelles love to be paired with with pasta, risotto, anything with a butter or cream sauce, and in a ragout with other wild mushrooms.
As with all mushrooms, they shine with garlic and onions, and cow’s milk cheeses like Parmesan (the difference between Parmesan and Parmigiano-Reggiano).
Add them to just about any savory course.
Sauté or roast them, and serve them as a side with grilled or roasted meats and seafood; or a first course, with grated Parmesan. The simplest preparation: Sauté in butter and garnish with parsley.
The latter preparation makes an easy sauce. Don’t hesitate to add a spoonful of Cognac.
Roast them and toss with a bit of olive oil, lemon zest, crushed pepper and optional parsley.
Have too many chanterelles and not enough time to cook them all? Cook and purée them into soup with a bit of milk, cream or broth; or pickle them.
 Ready to clean and cook (photo courtesy Quinciple).
 A simple sauté with salt, pepper and herbs provides a wealth of taste (photo courtesy D’Artagnan).
For a first course or brunch, spoon sautéed chanterelles over polenta or eggs (think of Chanterelle Eggs Benedict).
For a main course or side, use fresh chanterelles. For soups and sauces, you can reconstitute dry chanterelles.
Like most vegetables, mushrooms do not ripen further after picking. They’re ready to eat: Use them within a week.
Keep the unwashed mushrooms dry in the fridge, in a brown paper bag. If you purchased them in a plastic bag, discard it when you get the ‘shrooms home and place them in a Tupperware-type container on paper towels.
Like most mushrooms, chanterelles absorb liquids like a sponge. Be careful to wipe with a damp cloth, but don’t soak them.
Chanterelles should only be eaten cooked.
All mushrooms should be cooked over low heat.
Chanterelles can garnish an elegant protein such as filet mignon or turbot; or it can fill tortillas, as in the Chanterelle Tacos recipe below.
The name chanterelle comes from the Greek word kantharos, meaning vase.
The Pacific Golden Chanterelle (C. formosus) is the state mushroom of Oregon.