The search cost for many mushrooms, so sparse and unpredictable, would seem to be too expensive for what you get — except that you weigh those costs not only against the find’s quantity and deliciousness, but your irrational desire for the quest itself, or to conquer the maddening woods.
Chanterelles are pleasantly untricky to find. But they are the mushrooms for which I’ve paid the steepest price so far. Mosquitos by the hundreds give me the supreme heebie-jeebies. They even drove W. batty.
Then once you’ve found them, the price becomes steeper still. All the books say not to soak them, so you begin with a toothbrush and a paring knife to cut off all the dirt until you go mad or run out of hours to spend mushroom-cleaning. Then you begin to consider that you found them after a giant rain and try soaking them anyway, which is pretty effective, but you still have to treat each one’s baroque little folds individually with a knife. The human mouth is unhappily adept at finding even the tiniest bit of grit, and most come with quite a bit more.
My final advice is not to soak them, but if you must soak them, which is only reasonable, it works better on mushrooms that have dried out in the fridge a bit. And then, if you can leave them on towels overnight, you will have a better shot at sauteing them properly.
You do that in a wok at very high heat, giving each mushroom some personal space. After a few moments add a bit of olive oil or butter and a generous dash of salt. The mushrooms begin to weep, and you keep them moving so they aren’t sitting in the juice, which evaporates almost as quickly as it appears. If the mushrooms were very wet, pour off the liquid as it appears (and save it for something delicious). Then they are done crying, and they begin to brown, and you are in a good situation.
Our first batch of chanterelles ended up in a classic cream of chanterelle soup, the way Escoffier did it (except for my stock, a mixture of raccoon, duck and chicken). Incredible. Nearly unwound the hours of mosquito-induced stress from the hunt. But way too rich to eat more than a few spoonfuls. You can’t eat loads of chanterelles that way, and we had loads of chanterelles to eat.
So, pizza, omelets etc. Arduous, happy task.
But if you don’t feel like going to all that trouble, you can just blanch and pickle them, as I did with the last three quarts of mushrooms (and if you blanch, no need to worry about cleaning them dry, right?) Chez Pim has posted an excellent recipe with golden raisins and unfiltered apple cider vinegar. Pickled chanterelles maintain a texture that’s softer than their raw form, but truer to it than the sauteed version. Delicious and strange. We have quarts of them to finish, alas.