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Recipes and Stories

5 November 2013: Chanterelles and Country Ham

Sautéed Chanterelles with Country Ham and Cream, spooned over old-fashioned sautéed grits cakes

Mushrooms in cream are surely one of the world’s great gastronomical inventions. And when a little dry-aged country ham and bit of fresh thyme is added to the mix, they lend a lovely autumnal fragrance and depth of flavor that enhances even the mildest of fungi. The combination is the perfect way to bid farewell to the all-too-brief season for chanterelles.

Here, the finished mushrooms are spooned over sautéed grits cakes, but they’re also lovely over buttered toast or as a sauce for pasta such as homemade egg fettuccine, or dried factory penne or fusilli.

Grits Cakes Chanterelles with Country Ham
Serves 4 as an appetizer, two as a main dish

¾ pound chanterelle mushrooms
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, trimmed, peeled and minced (about ¼ cup)
1 ounce (¼ cup) julienned country ham
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Whole black pepper in a mill
½ cup heavy cream or crème fraîche
Salt
1 recipe Sautéed Grits Cakes (follows below), made through step 3

1. Brush the chanterelles clean with a soft brush or dry cloth and thickly slice them. Put the butter and shallot in a sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Sauté, tossing often, until the shallot is pale gold. Add the ham and sauté, tossing constantly, until it just loses its raw, red color.

2. Raise the heat to medium high, add the chanterelles and thyme, and sauté, tossing almost constantly, until the mushrooms are collapsed but still firm and just beginning to color, about 3-4 minutes. Add a liberal grinding of pepper, toss, and pour in the cream. Bring it to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, until it is reduced and thick. Turn off the heat.

3. Sauté the grits cakes until they’re golden brown as directed in the recipe. Divide them among four warm salad plates. Return the chanterelles to medium heat and bring them back to a simmer. Taste and adjust the salt and divide them among the grits cakes. Serve immediately.

Sautéed Grits Cakes
Serves 4
4 cups water
1 cup raw grits (not quick-cooking)
¼ cup heavy cream
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or aged, extra-sharp cheddar
Salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1. Bring the water to a boil in a heavy-bottomed stainless steel, enameled, or non-stick 3-quart saucepan. Stirring constantly, add the grits in a thin, steady stream. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until they begin to thicken slightly. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until very thick and tender. Stir in the cream and simmer 2-3 minutes longer.

2. Off the heat stir in the cheese, taste, and adjust the salt. Choose a baking dish in which the grits will come ½-inch up the sides or rinse out 2 straight-sided tumblers with water. Pour in the grits, ½-inch deep in the dish, to no more than ½-inch from the top for the tumblers. Let cool, cover, and chill until quite firm.

3. If molded in the dish, loosen the edges, carefully un-mold onto a plastic cutting board, and cut into 8 ½-inch-thick rounds using a 2¼ inch round biscuit cutter. If molded in tumblers, loosen the edges, un-mold onto the board, and cut each cylinder cross-wise into 8 ½-inch-thick slices.

4. Melt the butter in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Swirl the pan to film the bottom with the fat, raise the heat to medium high, and sauté until the bottom is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully turn and sauté until the second side is equally browned. Transfer to warm serving plates and top as directed in the individual recipe.

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