Big water fishing and wild food foraging are two of my favourite sports and pairing up the fish of my dreams with a top woodland pick such as in this recipe produces a gourmet feast that money can’t buy!
I like to use salmon steaks for this particular recipe because they look stunning on the plate, flaunting the size of the catch better than a fillet might do! However if your prize has already been portioned out into fillets they can be used instead.
Fish can be pan-fried or grilled, according to liking. I find frying works great for up to as many steaks as the pan can accommodate without crowding, but if I’m cooking for a larger party I like to fire up the backyard grill in order to cook them all in one shot.
Of course, if fresh caught salmon and just picked chanterelles don’t land in the kitchen on the same day, there’s a back-up plan! You can mix and match, using fresh or frozen fish (be sure to completely thaw frozen fish before cooking) with fresh or dried chanterelles (if using the latter, they must be rehydrated by soaking in several changes of cold water until plumped back to life). Being versatile allows you to enjoy this meal whenever the craving strikes!
You’ll find fresh picked deep-fried chanterelles are more tender and delicate in flavour than rehydrated ones but the latter has a delightfully, slightly chewy texture and much deeper flavour. Either way, they’re delicious when dipped in this simple beer batter, which produces a crispy golden crust.
When it comes to picking chanterelles (or any other edible wild mushroom, for that matter), the best way to break ground is to hunt down an experienced forager to learn from. The next best thing is to visit the produce department of larger supermarkets during the growing season and have a close-up look at a chanterelle because store-bought and wild pick are one and the same. And it goes without saying, if you can’t make positive identification in the field then stick with commercially sold fresh or dried chanterelles.
Chanterelles are easy to dry, so if you do go on a picking spree and bring home more bounty than can be eaten fresh, spread the excess pick on cloth-lined trays or screens and set them in a warm airy place to dry until moisture is gone, usually about a week. When dried, store in a paper bag on the pantry shelf where they will save indefinitely. You can also dry mushrooms in a food dehydrator according to manufacturer’s directions.
Pan-fried Salmon Steaks
These melt-in-your-mouth steaks are fried in clarified butter (also known as ‘drawn’ butter or ‘beurre noisette’ (meaning hazelnut butter in French) for two reasons. One is because the clarified butter instills a nutty, buttery flavour into the steaks. The other reason is because clarified butter has a higher smoke point than regular butter, thus it allows the fish to be fried at a higher temperature. You can buy clarified butter in larger supermarkets or make your own as I do from the simple recipe below.
Regular butter is made up of butterfat, milk solids and water. To make clarified butter you want to render down the pure butterfat. To do so, cut 1/2 pound unsalted butter into pieces and put into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Melt over low heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Skim the foam from the top and discard. Slowly pour the butterfat off into a clean container and discard the milky waste left in the bottom of the pan. Store leftover clarified butter in a capped jar in fridge.
2 salmon steaks
Flour for dredging
3 tablespoons clarified butter
Sprinkle steaks with seasoning. Dredge in flour. Heat clarified butter in frying pan until sizzling. I use cast iron because it holds heat evenly and produces evenly cooked and coloured fish. Slip the steaks into the pan and fry until undersides are golden. Flip, and continue cooking until fish flakes to the probe of a fork, 5 to 8 minutes depending on thickness. Transfer to heated platter and surround with deep-fried chanterelles. Serves 2.
Salmon Steaks – Grilled
Preheat grill to medium, brush rack with oil to prevent fish from sticking. Season steaks with sea salt and pepper. Place on rack and cook until undersides are golden and embedded with a nice dark grill imprint. Flip and continue cooking until done as above.
10 medium-sized whole fresh or dried (and rehydrated) chanterelles
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt and pepper
vegetable oil for deep-frying
Mix flour, baking powder, seasoning in a small bowl. Whisk in enough beer to make a light batter. Heat oil in deep-fryer to 375F. Dip chanterelles into batter and drop into the oil. Fry until crispy and golden, a few minutes is all it takes so do not drop in the mushrooms until the salmon steaks are almost ready to serve.