Monday, October 3, 2011

Lost in the Woods with Chanterelles

We weren’t too sure what to expect when we were invited to go off-roading in Mark’s jeep, but we knew we were in for an adventure.
“Where are your jackets?” Mark asked, and Dawn echoed, “And how about a scarf—and boots?”
I thought I was ready for a tromp in the woods.  I had my hoodie and my good walking sneakers.  And Joe had his heavy fleece.  But they reached for extra jackets and scarves—just in case, and we were off.  We were going mushroom hunting.  Dawn has done this sort of thing since she was a child and is quite comfortable picking the mushrooms she knows well.  And I certainly remember going mushroom hunting with my father when we walked through northeastern forests in search of chanterelles and morels, which were more elusive.  We came home with big paper bags filled with the glorious gold of Chanterelles and he cooked most of them in an evening in butter and garlic, and we feasted—all six of us kids and my parents.
It was misty-rainy, perfect for mushroom hunting.  Mark drove until urban became suburban, then country, then simply forest with a few access roads.  We bumped along for awhile until we could go no farther as the forest road finally ended with a gate.  This might be perfect.  The woods were deep and quiet with only a small sound of raindrops falling to the undergrowth in light splashes.  The trees wore blankets of moss, soft to the touch as I reached out for sound footing.  The ground was so thick with pine needles it was like cushions underfoot.  The forest breathed quietly.  Ferns and salal were electric green in the deep shadow of the trees.
We started out together and gradually drifted apart, eyes to the ground, trying to differentiate between fallen leaves and a possible mushroom patch.  I stayed close to Joe and Dawn while Mark moved off in another direction.  I didn’t dare lose sight of my companions because I had absolutely no idea where we were, where we had been or where we were headed.  Dawn seemed the most sure of herself and where to go.  We called out to Mark but there was silence all around.  Where had he gone?  Did he go back to the jeep, assuming we were also headed back?  We called again, thinking we couldn’t possibly be far from the jeep.  We hadn’t been hiking very long, after all—or so it seemed.
Dawn finally found a road and the three of us headed there, thinking surely we would see the jeep as soon as we left the woods.  But the road stretched blankly in either direction.  I wondered if there might be cell service in this remote area.  I was beginning to get a little scared.  And was tremendously relieved when I was able to connect to Mark’s phone—but he wasn’t answering.  I left a message, “we’re on this road, but don’t know if it’s the same road we came on.  It doesn’t look familiar…please call back…”
Joe took out his iPhone, now that we knew we had coverage, and began zeroing in on our location until he had the name of this road.
Mark called back finally.  “I’m at the jeep,” he said.  “”I’ll honk the horn.  Can you hear it?”
I heard it on the phone but not in reality.  “Mark’s honking the horn.  Can you guys hear it?” I asked, now really beginning to panic, though at least we were in contact.
“Tell him the road we’re on,” Joe said.  When I told Mark he said, “that’s pretty close by.  I’ve got it on the GPS.  Walk down to the gate because I can’t come any further.  It’s not far.”
Dawn had been walking fast in both directions of the road, hoping to find something familiar.  Her hair was wet now and her jacket shiny with rain, which had begun to fall softly and steadily.  I sought protection under the overhanging boughs of a tree.  Now that we knew which direction to go and how far it was, we set off at a fast clip until we finally saw the jeep.  Dawn ran ahead to Mark and there was a sudden exclamation of joy as she looked in the Whole Foods grocery bag he was showing her, an enormous grin on his face.  He was as drenched as we all were.
“Chanterelle!” she exclaimed.  “Where did you find them?”
“I have no idea.  I got really lost and called and called you guys.  Then I saw them, right there in front of me.  So I picked them and here they are.  But I was really freaked out when I couldn’t find you and you didn’t hear me call.”
“I’m so relieved there’s cell service—even here…” I said.
We piled into the jeep and went on with our adventure promising to stick together on any future hike—and to all have our phones with us—just in case.
We decided to have lunch in Leavenworth, clueless about the fact that this was the first weekend of Octoberfest. 
 Mark and Dawn
Joe and Me
We surfed the crowds, had the obligatory bratwurst (which was deliciously succulent and spicy) and ended up in a little meat and cheese shop.  On the counter top was and array of sausage and cured meat samples.  Never one to pass up a food sample, I tried a few until my toothpick pierced the most unusual sliver of a mound of petals on a plate labeled “Buckboard Bacon”.  Looking in the case, I saw what looked like some of the fallen logs we had seen in the woods, dark and withered and gnarly.
Buckboard Bacon

Mark bought a half pound and handed it to me.  “Here, Mom.  I know you’ll know what to do with this.”
“How about on a pizza?” Dawn suggested.
“Or how about a pasta carbonara?” I chimed in.
“Tossed with petite peas,” she said, continuing the riff.
“And with the chanterelle sautéed in butter and garlic, to top it and with just a few slivers of asiago.”
“Sprinkled with a bit of chopped parsley—for color,” she finished.
Mark insisted I should do this and take pictures and put it all on my blog.  Well, okay then!
Pasta Carbonara with Chanterelles and Sliced Tomatoes in Vinaigrette

Pasta Carbonara and Chanterelles for two
¼ package linguini
1 quart water with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup frozen petite peas
3 cloves chopped garlic
½ cup Buckboard Bacon in petal-sized pieces
1 glug olive oil (about ½ tablespoon)
¼ cup white wine
1 egg separated
2 tablespoons cream
ground sea salt and black pepper
¼ cup shaved Asiago cheese
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Bring water to boil with salt and a splash of olive oil.  Add linguine and cook al dente, about 8 minutes. Add peas to linguini water in last 2 minutes of cooking time.

Chanterelles and Buckboard Bacon, ready to saute
Meanwhile, sauté garlic in glug of olive oil in a large pan until fragrant, about 2 minutes. 
Whip egg white and cream together.
Add Buckboard bacon and egg and cream mixture and toss.  Add wine and toss.
Buckboard Bacon and Garlic

Scoop out linguini and peas from cooking water with a spider and add to bacon/ garlic/cream mixture.  Toss together with yolk of egg and half the asiago.  Add a bit of the cooking liquid if needed. 
Chanterelles in Garlic and Butter

Top with Chanterelles, a smidgen of asiago and the parsley.  Serve immediately.
Chanterelles in Garlic Butter
1 cup sliced chanterelles mushrooms
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 cloves chopped garlic
2 tablespoons white wine
Ground sea salt to taste
Melt butter in medium frying pan and add garlic.  Cook about 1 minute until butter and garlic foam together.
Add chanterelles and sauté until much of the liquid is reduced.
Add wine and toss to coat mushrooms in syrup reduction.

This is a simple and elegant meal that can be put together in less than 30 minutes.  Add a salad of sliced tomatoes drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette and garnished with basil leaves for a colorful balance of flavors and textures.
On our way back home we took a little side trip to explore the trail where the Great Northern Railraod used to be until a catastrophic avalanche obliterated it about 100 years ago.  It was the worst railroad disaster in history at the time. 
Part of Snowshed Wall at Iron Goat Interprative Trail

Snowshed Wall from old railroad line

Dawn at mouth of train tunnel


  1. What a great day! Sorry I missed it!

  2. Awesome Post SallyAnne! Sure makes me miss the PNW, your detail of the woods was awesome. :) We have been too the the Iron Goat trail as well and really enjoyed our hike. Your dinner sounds devine wish we were there to enjoy it too! I'll be making this at home for sure. I'll share this post with Austin, he'll get a kick out of it. Miss you guys!

  3. What a treat to share the day with you and then read this post. What an amazing meal you made from some stuff we found in the woods!