French Beans & Chanterelle Mushrooms with Balsamic Cream Sauce

I’ve been trying to get my hands on chanterelle mushrooms for a while, but because I’m picky it took a little longer. My pickiness concerns the origin of the mushrooms. While Chernobyl happened in the last millennium, we know that mushrooms grown in Eastern European countries are still believed to be one of the most contaminated foods today. In German supermarkets, the most common country of origin for chanterelles is Lithuania, but talking to a friend we found out that meanwhile a lot of Eastern European countries send their mushrooms to Lithuania for packaging, so the packaging will state Lithuania as country of origin. Okay, this was getting too complicated for me. But then, when I’d given up the idea of cooking with chanterelles, I discovered our local market has a couple of booths selling Bavarian and Austrian ones. Oh happy day.

Lounging around with a cup of my beloved coffee, wondering how to prepare the chanterelles, I went through a mental inventory of my pantry (I use the term pantry loosely here, I don’t really have one! Everything is stored in kitchen cupboards…). One thing that came to mind was Barolo pasta which – once again – I had bought on a whim, thinking it might come in handy one day. Then I had a bag of French beans, which came from what I call my mother’s “vegetable exchange program”. Both my parents and their neighbours seem to have too much of everything in their gardens, so they swap a lot of vegetables. Very handy.

When I came up with the French bean and chanterelle idea my first thought was a warm salad with a balsamic vinegar reduction. But once I remembered the Barolo pasta, I wanted a more substantial sauce, something creamier, though still with balsamic vinegar in it. So I tried this balsamic reduction with cream mixed in. While mixing and cooking, I tasted constantly until I deemed it perfect, but when I finally sat down to eat my first thought was “wow!”. I used my favourite balsamic vinegar made from Rioja wine, which is milder than the usual stuff, but during cooking with the cream it became even milder. Once again, an experiment that was very well worthwhile.

A note on the use of butter: there are a lot of dishes where substituting butter for something low- or non-fat is justified. But this is not one. If you feel inspired to try this recipe, I beg you to use butter!

French Beans & Chanterelle Mushrooms with Balsamic Cream Sauce

400 g French beans
200 g chanterelle mushrooms
1 onion
6 bacon rashers
1/3 stick butter
mild balsamic vinegar
cream
salt
freshly ground pepper
400 g pasta

serves 2

Wash beans, cut off ends, and halve. Clean the chanterelles (see tip below). Finely dice the onion. Cut the bacon rashers into thin-ish strips.

Get the balsamic reduction started by pouring the vinegar into a small pot, about 2.5 cm / 1 inch high. Once it’s on a boil, reduce temperature to medium, and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Add cream, starting out with a small amount, then adding more as it simmers along. [I tasted it often, and liked it best when I had added enough for it to get the colour of a latte macchiato.]

Start cooking the beans in salt water. [I find that blanching them for 5 – 10 minutes leaves them too hard, so I cooked them for 15 minutes, which left them still crunchy but done.]

Start cooking the pasta at the same time as the beans. Once it’s done, drain, add a knob of butter, stir it through, and keep pasta warm.

Fry bacon, starting out without any additional fat. Once the bacon starts to brown, add the onions and a knob of butter. When the onions start getting colour, add the chanterelles and cook until they start getting colour, too. Add more butter if necessary, the vegetables shouldn’t swim in it, but they should have a buttery sheen. Add the beans last, stir through, and cook for another 5 minutes.

Arrange pasta on plates, spooling a portion onto a fork, then slowly pushing it down onto the plate so it makes a nest. Arrange the vegetables around it, and drizzle everything with the sauce.

Notes:
Use any long pasta shape – like tagliatelle or fettuccine, they’re available in different widths – that you can stick your fork in and coil so you can make a pasta nest on the plate.
The Barolo pasta was nothing special, you couldn’t taste that it was made with wine (not that I expected that), and as it also lost its pretty colour in the cooking process, next time I’d settle for plain pasta.
I realise I’m mixing European and US measures again in this recipe, which I wanted to avoid, but I actually had sticks of butter in the fridge, hence this measurement.
A handy tip on cleaning chanterelle mushrooms that I learned from a TV cook: put mushrooms in a colander and sprinkle with 1 tbsp flour. Put colander in sink, and fill sink with cold water to just under the rim of the colander so the mushrooms will swim in it. Softly rub the flour into the mushrooms. The grainy structure of the flour will help to loosen the dirt and grit from the mushrooms.
Reading this recipe it sounds like you have to do everything at once, but it’s not that bad, really. You basically start off everything at the same time, but things will be ready one after the other, so you don’t have to tend to them all simultaneously.

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