I’m still working my way through my Philadelphia mushrooms. Since they have a short shelf life, I’ve got to hurry!
A long time ago, in a universe far, far away, my husband and I lived in the Berkeley area for a decade. He was getting a degree, and after a couple of years, I decided to get one too. Our daughter was born there. We bought our first house (and left before the earthquake!).
Berkeley was home to the Gourmet Ghetto—a collection of amazing restaurants, that of course we, as starving students, couldn’t afford. Among them was Chez Panisse. I used to park near the place, when I was working one of my three jobs, and would stop and read the menu. Would you believe that the prix fixe dinner was something like $14 then? Even so, we could rarely afford the indulgence. But we did take our daughter there to celebrate her first birthday. Since she’s something of a foodie herself now, maybe it made an impression.
A few years ago the mystery conference Bouchercon was held in San Francisco. I had not been back to California since we moved to the east coast in 1987, so of course I had to go. I arrived a day early, so I could indulge in a nostalgic trip to Berkeley—and lunch at Chez Panisse.
If Berkeley was a gourmet mecca thirty years ago, it’s more so now: I swear every other storefront housed some sort of restaurant or food vendor. But Chez Panisse hadn’t changed. Every dish was prepared with meticulous attention, and everything was delicious. I had a simple dish of pasta topped with chopped mushrooms and fresh herbs that was delightful.
That’s what I’ve tried to recreate here. This time my chanterelles were at the head of the queue, which is what I had at the restaurant. Combined with fresh green herbs, the orange mushrooms provide a pretty contrast to the pasta.
Fresh Chanterelles and Pasta
Sprigs of fresh thyme and parsley
2-3 Tblsp unsalted butter
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
Spaghetti (or whatever you prefer)
Slice the chanterelles. Peel and dice the shallots. Pluck the leaves off the thyme sprigs. Finely chop the parsley.
Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat and sauté the mushrooms and shallots for a few minutes. Add the thyme, salt and pepper.
Sauté briefly, then add the chicken stock and the cream. Simmer gently until the stock is reduced by about a third (but do not let it become too thick!). Taste for seasoning, and add a squeeze of lemon juice.
Cook the pasta according to instructions, then mix it into the sauce. When you serve it, sprinkle it with the chopped parsley.
Whilst it may be indelicate to speak of such matters after a fine meal, Privy to the Dead comes out on June 2nd!
Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society President Nell Pratt finds more than she expects in a deep hole in the basement of the century-old Society building--and a man dies because of it.