It was another sultry and sticky kitchen night in the Catskills Mountains with the wind blowing the wrong way. I had a simple but delectable swordfish feature to take the pain away from the Fish & Chip Friday it was looking to be, yeah, another Fish & Chip Friday. My sole companion for this time of year; a young Boces culinary student, stood like a statue; mouth open, taking notes on several dishes at once. I ask him to stop drooling on my line. He didn’t. It felt like this was going to be an endless night of frustrating, sweaty agony.
It was then the news I had nearly forgotten I had been waiting for arrived; famed Chef Jacques Pepin was in the Tavern with a small entourage. I put all diners on hold, shut of the burners, illustrated a few quick instructions on steaks to my young partner and tried not to stumble as I sprinted out to the bar. Chef Jacques was cheerful, fresh from the woods where he was hunting a famous mushroom: The Russian legend of Baba Yaga’s magical hedgehog stoop, the Chanterelle. I had just received word via the Orvis Fly Fishing Pro that the season, due to the rain, was one the best in the last decade. Wiping the sweat from my forehead I reached out for the hand of the great Chef Pepin who was at the bar sharing wine with his friends. Gawky jokes sprang forth as I clumsily attempted to show I was not star struck or intimidated by this super star of my profession. The french foursome promptly ushered me out to the parking lot and bestowed the beautiful golden gems on me.
I stood there, giddy and dumbfounded with gifts from Jacques Pepin.
I was well aware that these gentlemen were not going to dine, as it is their tradition to cook for each other at one of their homes… but could I allow Chef Pepin to leave my restaurant without eating? The pressure was sizzling, I had to thank the Chef with a small tidbit. I returned to the heat of the kitchen (where I am at my personal best) and swiftly made a Chanterelle Mushroom Risotto dish with Queso De Vare goat cheese as an Amuse Bouche. The butterflies were doing somersaults in my belly as the dishes floated out of the kitchen in the hapless hands of the servers. Time slipped and ran away while I worked stealthily in the kitchen until I was there standing in front of this master again, smiling. Though I knew the risotto was good, I listened as Chef Pepin told me my risotto and the concentration of flavors were excellent. Dizzily, I said, “Chef, the mushrooms made the risotto.” He fervently shook his head at me, “No,” he said, “The Chef makes the Risotto.”
Chanterelle Mushroom Risotto
Start by bringing 3 cups of Mushroom Broth to a light boil. In a deep 10 inch saute pan, cook a ¼ cup of Diced Onions in 3 tablespoons of Virgin Olive Oil until translucent. Add 1 tablespoon Minced Garlic and continue to cook until the garlic opens up. Add 1 cup Arborio Rice and stir until it turns white. Stir in ½ cup of white wine, continue to stir until the wine is almost completely reduced. At this point start ladling in ½ cup of Mushroom Broth at a time stirring until evaporated. Repeat this process until the rice is Al Dente. In a separate pan, saute 1 cup Sliced Chaterelle Mushrooms in 3 tablespoons unsalted butter on high heat. Add the mushrooms to the rice with Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper, ½ cup grated hard cheese such a Parmesan or Queso De Vare, 3 Tablespoons of room temperature Butter. Stir until creamy. Garnish with fresh snipped Chives. Serve alone or as a side dish.