The chanty season is upon us in the Midwest! Well… it is just getting started in the St. Louis Missouri Metro area, anyway. We have a fairly reliable spot to hunt, and checked it out Sunday. Then the skies opened and we were rained on for the better part of an hour. Once the initial panic wore off.. we were already wet, so meh. Kept on hunting. The plans we had were pretty much ruined the second we got wet, ANYWAY, so might as well get some mushrooms out of it, you know?
It is still early in the season, so what we found were small. We left about 500x what we cut. Never the less we found about a pound and a half that we didn’t feel too guilty about harvesting. They were largely Cantharellus cibarius (Golden Chanterelle), Cantharellus lateritius (Smooth Chanterelle) and a flush of Cantharellus cinnabarinus (Cinnabar Chanterelle).
We got them home and rinsed them off since they were pretty muddy (yadda yadda, no rinsing.. blah blah blah.. I don’t eat mud), trimmed and chopped them up. I stuck my head in the fridge to see what I had on hand.
I came up with chicken breasts, and asparagus. Not exactly the first thing that comes to mind, but the asparagus needed to get cooked pronto so I rolled with it. Life is the journey anyway.
First things first: I got my pan on the heat. I always like a nice hot pan, so once it came to temperature, I put in about 3 tablespoons of grape seed oil (I have been using it a LOT lately; I like it better than olive oil) spread it and added about a tablespoon of chopped garlic, and about a 1/4 cup finely diced onions.
I tossed it a bit, and covered to simmer for a few minutes. After I gave it some time to think about what it had done, I added a about 1/4 of water to sweat it.
While it was sweating, I took the opportunity to slice two chicken breasts rather thin across the grain and chop the asparagus to about the size of penne…. which was how I decided what pasta to serve the sauce over. I got the pasta pot going (don’t forget to salt the water; makes all the difference in the world!!) and it was just about time to add the chants that I had already chopped.
It took me about a nano second to realize I should have cut the chicken smaller. I let it cook about 2/3rds of the way through and then I deglazed the pan with about 1 cup of water to help form the base of my sauce.
I put the chant/onion/garlic mixture back in the pan to finish the chicken. SMELLED. SO. GOOD. Chants LOVE onions and garlic. Actually, they love shallots and leeks more, but I didn’t happen to have nay on hand at that moment, so I winged it with what I had.
Once I was sure everything was cooked through, I tossed the asparagus in and gave it a few minutes. There was still a healthy dose of water in the bottom so the asparagus essentially steamed. the last thing i wanted was mushy asparagus (yuck!!) so I actually watched it like a hawk at this point.
I let the asparagus get ALMOST done and pulled the lid off and in lightning speed juiced a lime into the pan. Yes, i said lime. I had it. Whatevs. Two things brighten your food the most effectively: salt and acid. I have some red wine I am frankly too afraid to open and limes. Limes it was. Then I threw in some sea salt, 3 tablespoons of butter (go big or go home and never trust a skinny cook) and stirred like mad. I wanted everything evenly distributed. Looks god over there, doesn’t it?
Next I threw in about a cup of flour, a teaspoon of black pepper and again stirred like mad. The key to this is make sure that all of the ingredients are coated in the flour. It is ok if it looks like goo. You want to stir it like this, heat on, for a few minutes. It helps to cook the flour. This is making a roux, albeit a lumpy one.
Once it is evenly distributed, start adding milk and whisking. Do this slowly; you want it to thicken as you add the milk. You CAN save it and thicken it if you add the milk too fast, but it takes a long time and is prone to pumps. If you are so inclined to do so, you could put cheese in with the flour to make an alfredo style sauce, if you like. It is just fine without cheese, but whatever gets you by. Some fresh parsley would also be welcome at this intersection of the recipe, as well.
At some point during the stirring, and I can almost guarantee you it will be at an inopportune moment, your pasta will boil over. Once you have a reasonable thick sauce, turn it down to low and go deal with the pasta. A last minute squeeze of lime juice and salt goes a long way as you toss the pasta into the sauce.
It was so good my picky eater (who doesn’t like vegetables) went back for seconds. You COULD make this a vegan recipe by using coconut oil, or more grape seed oil in place of butter and then some sort of milk alternative, provided it isn’t a sweet one. I don’t think it works, chemically, the same, but you could help it along with a generous teaspoon of corn starch.
The chants paired surprisingly well with the lime and asparagus and acted as a flavor emulsifier; they really brought everything together. If you are looking for a different way to prepare chants, give it a try and let me know how you liked it!