Which reminds me to advise you to exercise caution whenever you are mushroom hunting – the chanterelle is very distinctive, but there are fairly similar species, such as the Jack o’Lantern, which can make you sick. And of course when you are wandering in the woods, pay attention to where you are – especially in the wide-open West, bring a compass, watch for landmarks, remain aware of your location and your footing, and avoid crossing into places where you can get into a jam.
The availability of chanterelles here in the Midwest is pretty modest. In the Pacific Northwest, it is easier to forage for them, or you can find them at farmers markets absolutely all over. (Sometimes even Costco sells them.) At Sosio’s Produce stand in Seattle's Pike Place Market, we paid about $11 a pound for these, which sounds like an awful lot, except that in the summer, when I saw some not very attractive dryish specimens at a farmers market here in Chicago, the price was $36 a pound. Wowser.
There are many, many ways to use these wonderful mushrooms. Roast them in olive oil with finely minced onion and sage. Sauté them with bacon and then add them to a frittata. Stuff them into ravioli. Use them in a simple sauce to serve alongside a roast chicken or bistro steaks. You can also dry them (gently, at about 145 degrees F. to 150 degrees F. in the oven, or in a very hot sunroom or garage). Pickle them. And once they are sautéed, you may freeze them and thaw later with only slight flavor loss.
Since it had been so long since we’ve had these wonderful mushrooms, we decided to go with a preparation that would be simple yet luxurious. And while the locally foraged chanterelles traveled with us from Seattle, the fresh sage came from our own backyard. When this dish is ready, it will be gorgeous, with the deep golden mushrooms, the pale golden sauce, the freckles of sage and black pepper and a rich, elegant aroma and flavor. It’s just beautiful.