Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cheesy Cinnabar Chanterelle Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Boats before being topped with the final layer of cheese and panko

Cinnabar Chanterelles (Cantharellus cinnabarinus) are juuuust starting to come in season, though most we saw were still too small.

Cinnabars are smaller and less popular than their better known cousin, the Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius), which is egg-yolk yellow, smells faintly of apricots, and generally considered to be one of the 5 best (and most expensive) mushrooms in the world. Many people consider the cinnabars to be not worth the trouble of gathering, because of their small size, difficult to clean grooves, and their "inferior" flavor.

I personally like cinnabarinus very much (perhaps better than cibarius). They are small, with the tops rarely larger than a quarter. But they are frequently abundant; the photography on the right (shot last year) gives you some idea how many you can find in a small area. That picture is a small part of a patch that covers the entire drywash of a substantial hillside.

Cinnabar Chanterelles can be very difficult to clean. They feature deep grooves, which grow low to the ground. If rain has fallen since they grew, splash back can get mud inextricably ground into those grooves, and in these cases I generally won't gather them either. Ideally you want a heavy rain which triggers their fruiting, but then no further rain for 4-5 days, till they reach full size and you can gather them.

Another thing I do is brush them off in the field. Dirt is frequently on the tops of the mushrooms, and when you drop them into the bag, it loosens and gets into the grooves of the other ones you pic. Also I break off the very bases of the stems, so they also don't contaminate the others. When I clean the mushrooms at home, I use a damp paper towel, rather than running them under water or soaking, since they very easily get waterlogged.

As for taste. . .even if you prefer the flavor of the classic Chanterelle, the cinnabar isn't a slouch in the flavor department. It's not a weak or mild version of the cibarius, which tastes somewhat floral or fruity; the cinnabar it has it's own unique flavor profile--earthy, and somewhat peppery.

The finished dish, topped with cheese and panko
Anyway back to the dish. When I first found cinnabar chanterelles, I read somewhere that they pair well with zucchini, and I have found it to be so. The mild flavor and subtle sweetness of the squash (yellow squash is also good) complements the richness of the mushrooms.

For those who like to eat seasonally, the mushrooms and the squash are fruiting at the same time, making them a natural combination.

I usually make these boats with the first cinnabars I harvest each year, since the first harvest is usually a small one, the squash absorbs some of the cinnabar's flavor, and the boat shape of the squash means a few mushrooms can go a long way. This dish can be served as an appetizer or a main course when paired with a salad or over quinoa.

In this case, the harvest was so small that I tossed in the few early black trumpets we found to help flesh it out. Black trumpets are generally much higher rated than cinnabar Chanterelles--they are one of my favorite mushrooms. If you find cinnabars, look around carefully
for black trumpets. I often find cinnabars without trumpets near them, but I have almost never found trumpets without cinnabars nearby. They seem to like the same habitat, and since the cinnabars are so much easier to see, they can be an indicator that black trumpets are around.
The paper towel method can get your mushrooms very clean, but try to prevent dirt from getting in the grooves in the first place. If a mushroom is too dirty, don't gather it--it can contaminate your whole harvest.

Cheesy Cinnabar Chanterelle Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Fills 2 large zucchini, can be doubled, tripled, etc. Using smaller squash will turn this into an appetizer.

1 1/2 loosely packed, cleaned, cinnabar chanterelles, or other wild mushrooms 
2 large zucchini or yellow summer squash
1 cup shredded mild cheese, like munster 
1 small clove of garlic, minced
Panko bread crumbs, omit for gluten-free
Butter or olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat your oven to 350.
  2. Cut off the ends of your squash, and slice down the center vertically. 
  3. Scoop out the seeds and discard (or add to your homemade stock). Scoop a little deeper and remove some of the flesh of the squash. You want about a half inch or less of "shell". Reserve this scooped out flesh.
  4. Sprinkle the squash shells with salt, pepper, and brush with olive oil. Bake them in the oven for 20 minutes.
  5. While the squash is baking half or quarter your larger mushrooms. You want everything about the same size. Finely chop the scooped out zucchini flesh. 
  6. Heat butter or oil in a pan. Add the mushrooms and zucchini and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the minced garlic and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  7. Saute for about 10 minutes, or until mushrooms and squash are thoroughly cooked. Remove from heat and sprinkle 1/2 of the cheese into the pan. Lightly mix.
  8. After the squash shells have baked for 20 minutes, remove them from the oven. Divide the mushroom filling evenly between them, and top with the remainder of the cheese. Sprinkle panko bread crumbs over the top, and return to the oven.
  9. Bake for an additional 20 minutes, then serve immediately.

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