Have you ever gone mushroom picking? No? Well, that’s what we do in the fall back home. It’s kind of like apple picking in New England. A family activity. I have to admit I hated it when I was little. My mom would drag me out into the woods early in the morning on a rainy day. Because, you know, mushrooms grow better when it rains. We would pick all sorts of mushrooms – I don’t know their names in English, except for cepes (I have to tell you about my cepes-hunting trip to the Cape this fall!)
I loved picking chanterelles though. These happy little guys grow under birch trees. (Ever been to a birth tree forest, by the way? It’s so light and airy!) You really have to dig for them. If you see one, make sure you look around for more because they grow in families.
Chanterelles are used extensively in Russian cuisine – boiled in soups, fried like in the recipe below or just as a side dish, and also pickled (well, you know we pickle everything!) I’ve never seen them in the wilderness in New England but I was able to find some at my favorite grocery store (Russo’s, but more on that later) close to where I live, and I think they are also available at Whole Foods.
- 6 medium size Yukon Gold potatoes
- ½ lb chanterelle mushrooms
- 2 medium garlic cloves
- Bunch of fresh dill, coarsely chopped
- Salt, black pepper
- Vegetable oil for frying*
Peel and cut your potatoes like you would for French fries but thinner, and let dry on paper towels. Meanwhile, clean and slice your mushrooms. It’s best to use smaller mushrooms because those are young and can also be used whole.
Heat some oil in two frying pans so you fry your potatoes and your mushrooms separately. Once the mushrooms are done, add them to the potatoes. Mix well and add some salt and freshly ground black pepper.
When the potatoes are almost ready, squeeze the garlic and add some chopped dill into the pan. Mix well, cook a few minutes longer, and serve with more dill sprinkled on top.
*When I was growing up, sunflower (purified and unpurified) and canola oils were the only kinds available at Soviet grocery shops and in the market. My favorite is still unpurified sunflower oil. I love it for its aroma and the very special kind of taste it gives to the food you cook in it. In fact, I loved it so much, my grandma and I would often make a delicious snack with it. We would squeeze a few cloves of garlic, mix it with sunflower oil, and spread on a slice of fresh rye bread. Top with some coarse salt. Delish!