Bright yellow orange, with its cup upturned to the sky as if to bask in sunlight, the chanterelle looks more like a stubby flower than a mushroom. This wild mushroom is also known as girolle, egg or pfifferling mushroom. The chanterelle is a brightly colored edible mycorrhizal mushroom. Of the several varieties if the chanterelle, its most popular is the golden chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) and the most precious find of its kind. With its flavor and texture leaning on delicate and nutty, the chanterelle is perfect for making risotto or simply sautéed in butter.
Its trumpet, funnel or vase-shaped body makes the chanterelle distinctive, though careful inspection must be made when foraging for these prized mushrooms as they tend to look like two dangerous mushrooms — the Jack O’Lantern (Omphalotus illudens) and the false chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca).
Publisher and author Roy Reehil of The Forager Press, which publishes mushroom field guides in the United States, lists key identification marks on their website to help foragers check if they’re getting the real golden chanterelle. “(A) The cap is bright orange to yellow, smooth and hairless, becoming wavy at the edge of the cap when mature. (B) The flesh is firm and white, tinged with yellow and smelling slightly fruity, like apricots. The stem is not hollow. (C) The gills are thick and similarly colored or lighter than the cap, often forking towards the edge of the cap. (D) Make sure the gills run part way down the stem.”
Other varieties in this family include smooth chanterelle, red chanterelle, and minor chanterelle. Chanterelles have the aroma of floral apricots, their flavor peppery until you cook them. Since they are delicate, add them into your dishes near the end of cooking time. The Mid Hudson Mycological Association (MHMA) offers several ways to prepare the chanterelle — in consommés or cream sauces, sautéed with butter, brushed in olive oil and grilled, or chopped and served on top of beef rib chops.