Chanterelle season is here and I couldn’t be more thrilled! These gorgeous mushrooms are typically in season here in Nova Scotia mid-August – mid-September, according to the lovely folks at Maritime Gourmet Mushrooms. They grow their mushrooms year-round, but also bring in freshly harvested chanterelles in the late summer/early fall.
I am not a mushroom harvester, and would strongly advise against harvesting your own unless you are well versed in mushroom identification, or go with someone who is very well trained in this area. There is a saying that goes “There are old mushroom hunters and bold mushroom hunters, but no old, bold mushroom hunters” and I have read too many accounts of accidental poisoning to feel comfortable foraging on my own at this point in time. Which is why sourcing mushrooms from trusted local growers and harvesters is such a wonderful option. I can’t say enough good things about Maritime Gourmet Mushrooms, the quality, and variety of their mushrooms is truly excellent. This isn’t a subsidized post, simply my own personal opinion after a year of cooking with their products on a regular basis.
So what’s the big deal about mushrooms anyway? These beautiful little fungi seem to have people divided into love/hate categories, I have yet to meet anyone who is neutral when it comes to mushrooms. For some it is a taste issue, but in most cases it comes down to texture. If texture is the main issue for you, companies like Harmonic Arts carry a variety of different mushroom powders, which are excellent added to soups, stews and even your daily cup of coffee. I love Harmonic Arts website as they provide really excellent information on all of their products. I had the privilege of attending many of their classes while living on Vancouver Island and I have a huge amount of respect for them as a company.
Mushrooms have an abundance of health benefits, as they are anti-inflammatory, help boost the immune system, and contain vital nutrients such as selenium and potassium. Chanterelles in particular are beneficial for their anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties.
This Herb & Mushroom Polenta recipe is a bit labour intensive but is well worth the time invested. It works really well for a dinner party or festive event, as the polenta can be prepped and chilled ahead of time. You could up the mushroom flavour in the polenta even more by adding a bit of chopped chanterelles to the polenta itself, although I found using a mushroom broth added plenty of flavour on its own. You can buy mushroom broth at the store, or make your own at home adding dried or fresh mushrooms to any basic broth recipe.
Herb & Mushroom Polenta topped with Garlic Chanterelles and Fresh Herbs
Herb & Mushroom Polenta
4 cups mushroom stock
1 cup medium grit cornmeal
½ – 1 tsp sea salt
¼ tsp granulated garlic (or one small clove, crushed)
2 Tbsp fresh tarragon, finely sliced
2 Tbsp fresh sage, finely sliced
Combine mushroom stock, cornmeal, sea salt, and garlic in a medium-size pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Add fresh tarragon and sage, lower the heat to medium low, and stir until cornmeal is thick and has absorbed the liquid, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat. Lightly brush a 9×9 baking dish with avocado oil and pour polenta mixture inside. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
Cut the now firm polenta into squares (or whatever other shape suits your fancy) and pan-fry on both sides. Alternatively, you can serve the polenta warm and creamy straight out of the pan, this is equally delicious and requires a lot less work. That being said polenta cakes are delicious and well worth the effort.
Warm olive oil over medium heat. Add crushed garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute or so. Add mushrooms and sea salt, and saute until the moisture from the mushrooms is evapourated, about five minutes. Add fresh cracked pepper and stir to combine. Serve immediately.
1 batch Herb & Mushroom Polenta (recipe above)
1 batch Garlic Chanterelles (recipe above)
Fresh Tarragon and Sage (finely chopped, at least 1 Tbsp of each)
Prepare Herb & Mushroom Polenta and Garlic Chanterelles as outlined in the recipes above. Serve the polenta warm and creamy out of the pan, or chill, cut into squares and fry. Top with Garlic Chanterelles and fresh herbs.
This dish works well as both an appetizer and a main, depending on the size of your polenta squares.