Saturday, August 8, 2009

La Girolle, Queen of the Forest

My friend Christine and I cruise the open-air market that lines both sides of my street every Tuesday and Friday searching for inspiration. Drooling over the piles of tiny mirabelle plums, forest strawberries, and plump figs, I don’t notice she no longer walks beside me. I stop, turn around, and a woman pushing a stroller crashes into me.

“Sorry,” I mutter, still looking for Christine. I frown, and then see her, some 10 feet away leaning over a golden waterfall of girolles.

Golden Chanterelle mushrooms, or girolles, have just entered the market this season. The ones that have so captured Christine’s attention come from Portugal, their French counterparts not having yet made an appearance. They will continue to grow wild in the coniferous forests of Europe, Asia and North America through fall, often popping up in a the moss after a thunder storm.

I weave my way back to Christine.

“They’re so beautiful,” she whispers. “like little flowers. Shall we have them for lunch? With chicken?”

I gaze at the cascade of miniature trumpets with deep ridges running along their stems.

“Oh, yes,” I salivate.

The apricot-tinged flesh of this regal fungus would provide me a good source of fiber, something I desperately needed after yesterday’s cheese binge. It would also give me a nice dose of protein and vitamins E, D, K and B-complex.

We buy a pound and hurry down to the Monoprix for the chicken breasts.

Upon returning to the apartment, we take our treasure to the kitchen, a ten-foot long corridor, and ease them into the sink. Christine discards all the girolles that appear wet and have become a shade darker than the rest. She shows me how to scrape off the dirt and cut away bruised spots. Then she reminds me to never wash mushrooms because they’ll absorb the water.

“You look tired,” she says. “Why don’t you lie down. I can do the rest.”

I take her up on the offer and stretch out on the living room couch. Soon, the aroma from the kitchen lifts me onto a bed of moss. Sunlight streams through the pines somewhere in a medieval forest in France. I swallow and smile.

Poulet aux girolles (Chicken with Golden Chanterelles)
4 servings

1 lb chicken breasts (deboned), cut into chunks
1 lb of fresh Golden Chanterelles
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 spring onions or 1 very small yellow onion, minced
1/3 c chopped flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt, pepper, olive oil
1. Cut off bottoms of chanterelle stems and any dark spots on the caps. Scrape off any dirt. Wipe off with a damp paper towel or quickly rinse mushroom. (Do NOT wash mushrooms. They will absorb the water.)

2. Pour some olive oil into a large frying pan, just enough to barely coat the bottom. Sauté chicken over a medium flame until cooked through with golden edges. Season with salt and pepper. Take up and set aside.

3. In same pan, add a bit of olive oil (if needed) and minced onion and garlic. Stir to scrape up chicken bits and mix with garlic and onions. Add mushrooms and stir. Cover with a lid and let steam over a low flame. When mushrooms soften and have produced juice, remove the lid. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add parsley. Cook until most of the liquid evaporates.

4. Return the cooked chicken to the mushrooms. Stir to mix.
Serve with a loaf of crusty bread and a green salad with vinaigrette.


  1. What a lovely dream, in the pine forests of the mushroom queendom.

  2. Now I've got to go out and buy a pound or two of chanterelles, fry 'em in a cream sauce, serve 'em on toast and eat 'em with a chilled glass (or two) of Gewürtztraminer! What could be more beautiful than that! Thanks for a delicious story!
    Greetings from the ancient kingdom to the north,
    (aka Thomas E. Kennedy,