Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Cascade Chanterelles & Circassian Chicken

Saturday we headed back up into the Cascade foothills, outside of North Bend near Snoqualmie Pass to check out the FS Road 9030 area again. Our first outing in late-August was… less than successful. Still a fun day out, but no mushrooms. This time however we had much better luck. On top of that, the Weather Gods were smiling on us, and though it was forecast to be snow-flurries as low as 3000 feet, at 2200 it was dry, sunny, and fairly cold in the ample shade. So with hat, jacket and long-johns we went into the woods.

We started finding Chanterelles almost immediately. Most were in this size range. Unfortunately it rapidly became obvious that it has been cold in the mountains and the Chanterelles were showing signs of being on the way out. Many had the darker, mushier areas of old or partly frozen mushrooms. Not nearly as good as they were two weeks ago in the Olympic foothills. Still, there were some that were freshly up or that were protected under the undergrowth and leaf duff, so there's still some hunting left yet.

Time for an exercise. We're getting slowly but steadily better at this. In the photo to the right there is a Chanterelle "show". Can you find it?

OK, not too difficult. It's in the lower left corner. Here it is up close.

And here it is dug up. Not a bad find at all!

There were also a fair number of false Chanterelles around. These look similar from a distance but up close are easily identifiable by the gills, which are bladelike and not the sortof raised-bump-coral of chanterelle gills.

Here's the full days' haul. About 4lbs of Pacific Golden Chanterelles. Not bad for a six-hour outing. We also managed a few small boletes of various kinds, including one lone possible King Bolete (or more probably a Boletus fibrillosus). It's going into soup tonight.

If there was a downside to the day it was that, though the Weather Gods smiled, the Traffic Gods were vengeful. Some sort of charity walk (The "Walk Against Annoying Charity Walks" maybe? It's probably for Lupus or Children's Radioactive Hyper-Ebola or something. Obviously I am going to Hell.) occupied the Viaduct all the way to the Stadiums and we got a scenic tour of the Port and Sodo while looking for the onramp to I-90. Then on the way back we missed the exit to Snoqualmie (no Snoqualmie Brewery pint!). Then Issaquah Salmon Days wrecked our Issaquah Brewhouse plans (No Rogue!). Then Meredith got lost and took us back to the I-90/Viaduct mess. It was an Odyssey to get home. Complete with the part where my loyal crew were all turned into pigs. Also we escaped a giant cyclops by hiding under some sheep. Good times.

And if that made no sense to you, then like Handy from The Tick I say: "Read a book!"

And if that made no sense to you then god I am seriously out of touch. Onward with a recipe!

Circassian Chicken with Chanterelles

Credit for this one comes from a brief email exchange with Christina Choi of Foraged and Found. We were talking about using chanterelles in salads, she suggested pairing walnuts and chanterelles and I immediately thought up this recipe. Circassian Chicken is a classic Ottoman Turkish dish in which steamed chicken is covered with a walnut sauce and served cold, garnished with walnut oil. I first had it in Egypt at a restaurant in Cairo and it completely floored me. Since then I've made it every now and then at home. It's similar to other garlic + ground nuts or starch = tasty dip dishes from the region. In Greece and Cyprus for example, it's Skordalia, where it's ground walnuts (or often almonds in Cyprus) or leftover bread or potatoes mixed with lots of garlic and vinegar. Lower the garlic, lose the vinegar, pour it on chicken and you've got Circassian Chicken. So I figured why not add mushrooms? The base recipe comes from Tess Mallos' excellent The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook.


  • 1 whole Chicken, about 3lbs. Mine was six pounds, so I trimmed off the thigh quarters and wings and didn't use them. Gizzards and guts stayed though, personal preference.
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 carrot, quartered
  • 2 sprigs parsley
  • 3 cups cold water
  • Salt/pepper

Stick all ingredients in a snug pot on the stove. Heat to boiling, then down to simmer. Simmer covered for an hour and a half to two hours till chicken is cooked. Steam it, don't boil it. When done, take the chicken out, cool a bit, and take the meat off the bones. Chop meat to 2" chunks, into a bowl with a couple tablespoons of the stock, and into the fridge. Return bones and skin to pot, bring to high boil and reduce by half to make a stock of about 2 cups, adding water if necessary.


  • 3 slices stale bread, crusts removed. I didn't have any bread so I used a cup of Panko, which was probably too much.
  • 1 ½ cups walnuts
  • ½ t paprika
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ pound chanterelles, crappy bits chopped, appealing garnishy bits sliced for presentation. I would actually go up to a pound if I had it to do again.

Walnuts into the Cuisinart. Blitz fine. In goes the bread (or panko) and a little of the stock to wet it. Blitz. In goes the paprika and garlic. Blitz. Add stock and blitz till reasonably thick (but not chunky) consistency. Cook the unphotogenic chanterelle bits in some walnut oil until liquid has been released and mostly boiled off. Then into the food processor. Blitz. Salt and pepper to taste. Blitz. When you're happy with it (no big chunkies but still a thick sauce) stick it in the fridge. Cook up the rest of the pretty chanterelles in a pan with walnut oil. Cool.

Putting it together.

The hard part of this dish is plating. It is a lot like chicken salad, and has the same problem: it looks like gray vomit. So color is important here. Combine ½ t paprika with a tablespoon of walnut oil and let sit at least 10 minutes. Cook up some wild rice, long grain rice, bulgur or other grainy starch to plate on. (Or don't if this isn't going to be the whole meal, it would be great as a meze course.) I used a wild rice mix. Mix about a third of the walnut sauce with the chicken. Serve portions in a nest in the rice. Add more sauce over the top. Garnish with cooked photogenic chanterelles, pomegranate seeds, parsley, and the now red stained paprika walnut oil. This should easily serve six. The chicken is more dense than you'd think and is pretty filling. It's usually served cold, but I like it warm too. It actually has a lot in common with chicken salad and goes just as well in a sandwich.


Post a Comment