Longtime chef and local restaurateur and all around Oregon adventurer, Leather Storrs, figures it’s simple: if you want to harvest wild mushrooms, learn their habitat.
In the Tillamook State Forest – where sun and shadow dance through the towering Doug fir trees while Storrs’ well-trained eyes are fixed down close to the ground where there’s a culinary reward.
“Ohhh, there we are – chanty number one – it’s always good to get off the dime early,” exclaimed Storrs with a hearty laugh.
Chanterelles have a golden-orange hue and their chalice shape make them hard to spot – but their allure is a woodsy flavor that’s hard to resist.
Since 1999, the gorgeous fungi have been the official Oregon State Mushroom.
“As soon as you see the first one,” noted Storrs. “There is this chanterella-vision that allows you to see that unique sort of peachy-orange color, but with the weather change and the alder leaves turning yellow on the ground it’s getting trickier.”
Chanterelles are not the only mushrooms in the forest. Storrs, an experienced mushroom hunter said that there are dozens of other mushrooms that grow here and most are none too friendly to people and many are downright dangerous.
“When you’re doing it without knowledge and confirmation, there’s no reason to take any chances. I learned in culinary school an old saying: ‘There are old mycologists and there are bold mycologists, but there are no old, bold mycologists.’
Leather Storrs may not be an old, bold mycologist, but he is one of Portland’s finest chefs.
His restaurant, the “Noble Rot,” set in NE Portland, is where Storrs has mastered the art of cooking a wild chanterelle recipe that can be with many other foods.
He cleaned an approximately one pound of chanterelles – (he never washes them in water but prefers to clean them off with a soft rag or brush) and he also prefers smaller, button-sized mushrooms.
Storrs then proceeded to slice them lengthwise, (he likes to preserve their overall shape and size as much as possible.)
Approximately one pound of the wild chanterelles hit an oiled (olive oil) pan with a “bounce, sizzle and snap.”
“Chanterelles are one of those things the really depend upon a hot pan,” added Storrs.”
While the mushrooms cooked, Storrs finely diced one large shallot.
When the mushrooms were nearly done, in went the shallots and two chunks of butter. And more:
“I’ve some big beautiful parsley here that I will chop and add near the end of the cooking time – along with a small amount of lemon juice.”
Meanwhile, from out of the oven Storrs pulled a cracked egg that was nestled inside a rich, grainy bread – It was warm and toasty and called ‘Egg in a Hole.’
Soon, he smothered the dish in the richly cooked chanterelles.
“That’s one way to treat a chanterelle ragout,” noted Storrs. “Not only is this a dish of the place and seasonal, it’s also virtually free.
Storrs is a big believer that the meals that you contribute to are the most rewarding – that is, the ones connecting you and tying you to the source of your food.
"There’s something exciting and magical that comes about when you find it and prepare it," he said. "When you share it with friends and family – I don’t think it can get much better.”
The Oregon Department of Forestry allows you to harvest up to one gallon of wild mushrooms on state forestlands, but any more than that, you are considered a commercial picker and must buy the $100 permit at any state forestry office.
Storrs stressed critical safety points if you choose to head into the forest at this time of year – First, pick only mushrooms that you know are safe. If you don’t know go with someone who is experienced and does know or take a mushroom ID class. (He suggested the Cascade Mycological Society.)
Storrs also suggested that mushroom hunters who are in unfamiliar territory stay close to the road and never out of earshot of the road traffic.