Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Creamy chantarelle sauce recipe (aka creamy girolle sauce)

My regular readers all know about my love for wild mushrooms. We had a long and hot and dry summer here in Estonia - not the time for forageing for wild mushrooms. However, the autumn rains have arrived, so soon I'll be heading to our regular mushroom forests to fill up the baskets (yes, the basket and my pink wellies are already in the boot of the car, waiting :))

Until then, I have to do with the fresh chantarelle/girolle mushrooms that are widely available at this time of the year. They actually appeared at the market stalls in early June, but were gone for a short while because of the heatwave. I'm glad they're back, for sure!

I make a popular Estonian dish - kukeseenekaste - quite regularly. It's a simple creamy chantarelle sauce that can be made either with fresh cream (then a spoonful of flour is often added for thickening) or sour cream. I prefer the latter these days, so the recipe is for that. While it's a typical dish in Estonia, it's not exclusively Estonian. The Finns make the same dish, calling it kantarellimuhennos. What is perhaps unique to Estonia is that we serve the chantarelle sauce as a dish on its own right - not as a delicious sauce alongside a steak or grilled elk or pan-fried fish or something along those lines. Kukeseenekaste is a perfectly satisfying meal on its own. (But then we're funny like that here in Estonia. We can also have a pile of _brilliant_ potatoes as the centrepiece of a meal - just read Alanna's overview about her trip to Estonia ;))

Chantarelle sauce
Serves 4 to 5

400 g fresh chanterelle/girolle mushrooms
1 Tbsp butter
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
200 g sour cream
salt and pepper
handful of chopped herbs (dill, parsley, spring onions)

Carefully clean the mushrooms, then chop coarsely and set aside.
Melt the butter on a large frying/skillet pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté gently for about 5-7 minutes, until just slightly golden.
Increase heat and add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper, then fry for about 5 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the mushrooms have wilted.
Add the sour cream, stir and just heat through.
Fold in the herbs and serve with boiled or mashed potatoes.

More chantarelle recipes:
Chantarelle pesto
Carrot and chantarelle quiche
Chantarelle bruschetta
Beef stroganoff with chantarelle mushrooms

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Simple, yet decadent fish supper: pan-fried vendace

Praetud rääbised / Pan-fried whitefish and tomato salad

This was originally posted in August 2012. I reposted this in late June, when the catching season for Lake Peipus vendace began and fresh and smoked vendace was again available, if pricey (going rate for a kilogram of smoked fish was about 20 Euros in June. But, oh so worth it). Now the Finnish vendace - slightly smaller, but just as delicious - has hit the market stalls, and we had pan-fried vendace for dinner tonight. Hence the reposting :)

Vendace is a wonderful freshwater whitefish that you'll find all over the northern continental Europe. The Latin name is Coregonus albula, and although it looks quite similar to the Estonian "national fish" Baltic Herring (räim aka Clupea harengus membras) that belongs to the herring family, then vendace is actually part of the salmonidae family alongside salmon, char, trout, graylings and other freshwater whitefishes.You're most likely to come across vendace (also called European cisco) in the lakes of Finland, Sweden, Russia and Estonia, as well as some lakes in the UK, Poland and Northern Germany. When I say the lakes of Estonia, I mean Lake Peipus - and must sadly admit that vendace has been scarce in the local waters during the last years.

Imagine my excitement when I saw beautifully fresh vendace at the local farmer's market yesterday morning! I immediately bought some hot-smoked vendace for lunch, and almost a kilogram of fresh vendace for dinner. It's such a delicate and excellent fish that doesn't need much messing around. A quick bath in a seasoned rye flour, followed by frying in hot butter or oil - you'll find the "recipe" below. I served the fried vendace with a fresh tomato salad, and the meal was enjoyed by all, including the small kids.

A note on vendace roe. The dark orange-coloured vendace roe (rääbisemari/löjrom) is a true delicacy, and Kalix löjrom from  the Swedish Botnia Bay archipelago has even been granted a PDO (protected designation of origin) status by the European Union, just like Prosciutto ham from Tuscany or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese from Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna. When the rather excellent roe of common/European whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) cost 799 SEK (Swedish crowns) in a supermarket in Stockholm back in early June, then the vendace roe was almost double the price, 1490 SEK:

Sorry for the photo quality - it was a quick snap with my mobile phone.

Names in other languages: rääbis (Estonian), muikku (Finnish), ryapushka (Russian), löj (Swedish), corégone blanc/la petite marène (French), Kleine Maräne (German).

Pan-fried vendace
(Pannil praetud rääbised)

Praetud rääbised / Pan-fried whitefish

fresh vendace (calculate about 2-3 fish per person)
rye flour or oatmeal
freshly ground black pepper
fresh dill, finely chopped
oil and butter for frying

Season the flour with salt and pepper, then roll the fish in the flour until evenly covered. Heat some butter and oil (or just one or the other) in a heavy frying pan over medium heat. Add the fish and fry for a few minutes on one side until dark golden brown, then carefully turn over and fry the other side for a few minutes again.

Garnish with a sprinkling of dill and serve with boiled new potatoes or potato mash, and perhaps a dollop of good home-made mayonnaise (be sure to click on the link if you haven't seen the cool Nami-Nami video recipe yet).