This is a simple sauce that tastes creamy and luxurious without using heavy cream – highlighting the natural flavor of some of the seasons’ finest wild mushrooms. You can use any kind of chanterelle or craterellus mushroom for this, but the sauce is at its’ best and most pleasing to the eye when a mix of different, colorful mushrooms is used. In the variation pictured above we used black trumpets (Craterellus cornucopioides) and golden chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius).
As always, prepare everything in advance and have handy when making a sauce so you aren’t rushing around chopping shallots or looking for sour cream when the time comes to add it.
Melt / heat in a sautee pan:
2 tbs butter or oil
1 tbs. whole field garlic bulbils or conventional or field garlic cloves, minced
2-3 oz shallots, finely chopped
A grating of fresh nutmeg
Sautee the onions and garlic until softened, then add:
1/2 lb. of chanterelle or craterellus mushrooms, chopped into similar-sized pieces
NB >>> Different mushrooms will cook at different times, so if using a mix, they should be added one at a time. I usually find that golden chanterelles take the longest and horn of plenty the shortest.
Cook the mushrooms until they are softened but not yet completely tender, and add:
1 tbs. potato starch (corn starch may also be used. Flour can be used but must be well-cooked to avoid leaving an off taste)
Stir and sautee for 1-2 minutes, then add, slowly, mixing to incorporate :
1 1/2 cups hot whole milk, preferably fresh and of very good quality
Cook while slowly adding the milk for fifteen minutes or so. Add seasoning to taste while the sauce reduces a bit. If it becomes to thick and/or is cooking too fast add 1-2 stock cubes or ice cubes and reduce heat if needed. Season with :
Freshly ground black or white pepper to taste (optional)
Salt to taste (not optional)
Fresh or good quality dried thyme to taste
Once the sauce is close to the desired consistency and the mushrooms are mouth-tender, remove the sauce from the heat. If it is very hot, allow to cool a bit before adding :
1/2 cup sour cream, preferably at room temperature
Snipped chives if desired
Taste and adjust for seasoning. Serve immediately.
If not eating immediately, allow the sauce to cool on its’ own without adding the sour cream. When serving, reheat and then stir the sour cream in, with chives if desired.
There are of course any number of herbs or other seasonings that could be added to this sauce, but in this its’ simplest form I’ve used only the classic mushroom herb thyme and a bit of nutmeg and optionally pepper. Fresh parsley or celery leaf in small, finely-chopped quantities are a nice addition for a bit more green color. One could add a stronger herb as well such as oregano or tarragon if it seems appropriate for the dish it is to be used with.
The temptation with a sauce this rich is to toss pasta in it, and revel in the sumptuous texture combination of chanterelle and toothsome starch. And I won’t deny that it is a fine sauce to serve with a starch – heavenly with freshly-made egg noodles, homemade biscuits (a nice vegetarian replacement for Southern-style sausage gravy), even simple buttered rice. Some more interesting uses? A cream sauce for greens or a green vegetable, a base sauce for a pizza, on top of heated stuffed vegetables or grape leaves, especially ones filled with rice or grains, on top of a hearty bowl of cooked, mashed lentils or pulses, and a dynamite partner with polenta. I have even eaten this on top of some scrambled eggs with a bit of cheese and green herbs and had no complaints about the experience.