While some women get excited when their favorite makeup brand or fashion designer releases the season's newest collection, I get excited when the season releases its own special collection- the culinary kind, that is. For me, the arrival of asparagus season in the early spring and the height of mushroom season in the autumn are at the top of my list of highly anticipated moments. The first glimpse of these beauties at the market is enough to make my heart jump with glee and have me beside myself with excitement. And really, I am not even exaggerating.
It happened last Saturday when I was suddenly face to face with a stall selling a mouthwatering variety of wild mushrooms. My thoughts went from omelettes to risottos to just simply sautéing them, and my impatience was evident when I found myself slightly annoyed at the lady in front of me who was taking her time ordering her produce. I wanted to nudge her away, grab a giant basket, take all the mushrooms and immediately run home to cook them. Greed, greed, greed! Fortunately, this is but a brief moment of culinary furor which quickly subsides once I'm at the table enjoying that very first meal. Last Saturday I feasted on an omelette with ceps, washed down with pink champagne, which I'm not sure is an adequate combination, but nonetheless, that evening I felt like I really had to celebrate.
One of my favorite wild mushrooms though are chanterelles. I love their bright orangy color which is reminiscent of the autumn's leaves. I love their fruity aroma and I swoon at their peppery, fragrantly spicy taste. They make such a winning combination with chicken and cream, but I also really enjoy them in a comforting risotto dotted with a little bacon and jazzed up with some parsley and parmesan. Today I am going to share one of my favorite wild mushroom risottos with you. Consider it my little gourmet present for you this autumn. Fresh from nature's runway...Bon appétit!
PS: Chanterelles may be a little difficult to clean, especially when it comes to their gill-like ridges. It may suffice to do this with a small brush, perhaps even a toothbrush, but should they be especially gritty, you can give them a very quick rinse under running water. Do make sure to thoroughly dry them off before cooking though, and don't laugh, but I do sometimes use a blow dryer for this purpose. Remember to trim off their woody ends. One more tip, chanterelles don't like to sit around waiting for you to decide what to make. They spoil quickly so it's best to use them on the day of purchase.
Risotto with Chanterelles, Cream and Bacon
2 knobs of butter
1 tbsp mild olive oil
350g fresh chanterelles, cleaned and chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic, finely sliced
50ml cream, plus 2 tbsps extra
100g cubed bacon
1 shallot, finely chopped
350g arborio rice
100ml dry white wine
1 1/2 liter of mushroom bouillon
sea salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
good handful of grated parmesan cheese
small handful of finely chopped parsley
First sauté your chanterelles. Melt a knob of butter in a large frying pan and add in your chanterelles. Cook them for about 10 minutes, stirring as you go. Halfway through the cooking time, add in one clove of chopped garlic. Season them once they are cooked and stir in the 50ml of cream.
In a small, dry frying pan, cook your bacon until it releases some of its oils but does not go completely crisp. Set aside and get on with the risotto.
Melt the other knob of butter and the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan, add in the other clove of garlic and your shallot. Gently sweat for a few minutes and then stir in the rice with some salt and pepper. Turn up the heat a little and add the wine, stirring it into the rice until it is absorbed. Start adding in the bouillon bit by bit, stirring it well into the rice and only adding more after the last bit has been absorbed. The cooking time will take about 20 minutes. After this, taste the risotto and should it not be to your liking, keep adding bouillon and cook it just a bit longer.
Once the rice is cooked, add in the 2 tbsps of cream and turn off the heat. Add the chanterelles, the bacon, the parmesan and the parsley. Stir well, cover and allow to rest for a minute or two. Serve and swoon!