The Black Chanterelle

Dark, mysterious, and elusive, the "Black Chanterelle", "Horn of Plenty", or "Trumpet of Death" (Craterellus cornucopioides) is one of the finest of all edible fungi. Rejected by many in favor of larger, fleshier, or easier to find mushrooms, the Black Chanterelle has a superior and more intense flavor and greater culinary versatility than virtually any other fungus.

Fruitings of the Black Chanterelle start in the late fall under conifers in Northern California, but it usually occurs in the Bay Area and south under hardwoods, mainly oak and madrone, from late December through February or March. Found from Santa Cruz to Del Nor te County.

Although the Black Chanterelle is good fresh (try it sauted in butter and served on a grilled steak!), the flavor is richer and more robust after it has been dried, which is the preferred method of preservation. If you cannot find this delicious fungus in the woods and feel compelled to try it now, it is available in many of the "gourmet" green grocers during its season for $8 to $20 per pound.

Craterellus and Gorgonzola

Fettucine Sauce

Clean and chop the Craterellus (if you are using dried fungus, soak them in 1/2 cup hot chicken stock or water and drain, reserve the liquid). Sauté the Craterellus in the butter over medium low heat for 3 minutes (if you have reserved liquid from soaking the dried fungus, add it to the pan, turn up the heat and boil off the liquid). Crumble the gorgonzola into the butter and fungus mixture and melt the cheese over medium low heat.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fettucine and cook al dente. This should take 60-90 seconds for most fresh pasta.

When the gorgonzola is melted and smooth, stir in the cream and bring to a boil. Boil the mixture for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Mix the sauce and the pasta and serve immediately.

This dish will serve 4-8 as a side course. It is an excellent companion to grilled lamb. Serve a red wine appropriate for the main course such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir with the lamb.

Substitutions: Any blue cheese will work in this dish, but the creamier the better. An great substitution for the gorgonzola is cambazola or blue costello. These very creamy cheeses make an even smoother sauce. Morels are an acceptable substitute for the Craterellus, but the strong flavors of gorgonzola and Craterellus are marvelous together. I use black pepper fettucine, but plain or garlic pasta also work very well. And of course you can substitue any good dried pasta.

The proportions of ingredients are not critical to the success of this recipe. That, along with the few ingredients and steps, make this a very simple dish to prepare.