Pasta with Brown Butter & Chanterelles
Chanterelle mushrooms aren’t in season long, and they usually cost a mint when you can find ‘em. In spite of that, I can’t resist buying a handful whenever I can get my paws on them.
They’ve got such a fantastic flavor—and when you infuse it into melted butter, half a dozen mushrooms goes a long way. This is an elegant and luxurious appetizer for about four, or main course for two.
Simply cook the butter for a minute or two until it’s light brown and has developed a wonderful nutty flavor and aroma. Then drop the mushrooms in, and cook them just until they’re tender, about 5 minutes.
If you don’t have chanterelles, lobster mushrooms are a good substitution.
What are Chanterelle mushrooms and how do you cook them?
Good question. Chanterelles are trumpet-shaped mushrooms that are a yellowish orange.
Like all mushrooms, they’ll likely be a little dirty when you buy them. To clean them, gently wipe them off with a damp cloth. (You can see specs of dirt clinging to the caps of some of mine.)
While you can usually find chanterelles dried year round, they’re generally only in season for a few weeks in the fall (they’re not widely cultivated). Choose mushrooms that are nice and plump. Avoid mushrooms that feel dry or look withered (stating the obvious, I know).
Chanterelle mushrooms have a delicate, nutty flavor. The most important thing to know about them is that they toughen if you overcook them.
Brown butter, a.k.a. beurre noisette
Brown butter is just what it sounds like: Butter that’s been cooked over low heat until it has a light hazelnut brown color and an irresistible, nutty aroma. It’s also known as beurre noisette (noisette = “hazelnut” in French).
Basically, when butter melts, it separates into liquid butterfat and milk solids. The solids brown. If you poured off the liquid, you’d essentially have ghee, or clarified butter.
Beurre noisette is a wonderful, simple sauce for pasta or cooked veggies. It’s also one of the trademark components in madeleine cookies.
How to pick your pasta
For most pasta dishes, shape matters—and largely depends on what kind of sauce you’re using. For this dish, choose a pasta with lots of nooks and crannies to help trap all that beautiful brown butter.
I used a bag of fiori-like noodles that I’ve had in my pantry for a while. It’s going to sound silly, but since it’s such a frilly little noodle, I was waiting to use it in a fancier dish. Campanelles would work well, too.
Pasta with Brown Butter & Chanterelles
1/2 lb. pasta
1/4 lb. fresh chanterelle mushrooms
3/4 stick of butter
Serves about 4 as an appetizer, or 2 as a main
Cook the pasta
Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water until it’s done to your liking. Drain it well.
Do this first. Don’t start cooking the sauce until the pasta is done, because it comes together really quickly (and you don’t want to overcook those expensive mushrooms).
Prep the chanterelle mushrooms
When your pasta is draining, grab your mushrooms. Wipe off the dirt that you see with a clean, damp cloth.
Nip off the tips of the stems with a sharp knife and discard. Then, depending on how large your chanterelles are, cut them in half, or even in quarters.
You want to leave the pieces fairly large, as they are the star of the dish.
How to make the brown butter
Put the butter in a medium-sized pan on the stove over low heat. Add the butter. Cook over low heat until the butter is completely melted, and is frothy and light brown.
You want it to look about like this. Don’t let it get too much darker, because it’s going to continue cooking when you add the mushrooms in.
Also, your kitchen should smell amazing right about now. I swear, if I could bottle the smell, I would.
Finish the sauce with the mushrooms
When your butter is brown, add the mushrooms to the pan. Sprinkle on a little kosher salt to taste. Toss to combine.
Raise the heat to medium, and cook for just about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are lightly browned.
After about 5 minutes, spear one with a fork. It should be tender and feel cooked, but not rubbery. Give it a nibble to be sure.
Toss the pasta in the sauce
Put the cooked, drained pasta in a large bowl. Pour the contents of your pan over the pasta.
Toss to coat well. Give the pasta a taste, and correct the seasoning as needed with a little kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, if you like.