Wild Mushroom Chowder with Bacon and Leeks

Story by Natalie
Wild Mushroom Chowder with Bacon and Leeks
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For the second year in a row my children and I embarked on an adventure into the woods to forage for mushrooms. It's a young tradition I hope to continue for many years to come. I wouldn’t exactly call it an easy feat, but through trial and error I think I may have narrowed down some key factors to make it enjoyable for all of us. If you're feeling adventurous and think you'd like to one day try mushroom foraging and just happen to have a small clan trailing behind you like I do, lucky you, because I'm to going share to few pointers to help you avoid the meltdowns I first endured.


The sun was shining on my back and I was in my own fantasy world, dreaming of the hundreds of pounds of forest’s gold I would be cooking with later that evening.

Wild Mushroom Chowder with Bacon and Leeks

First and foremost, make sure everyone is well fed. The first time I ventured out it was a clear, warm afternoon. The sun was shining on my back and I was in my own fantasy world, dreaming of the hundreds of pounds of forest’s gold I would be cooking with later that evening. All of the sudden I had three crying humans hanging on my legs. That brought me back to reality pretty quickly, and while I tried to push through, we didn’t last much longer. Every time we’ve gone since, I’ve fed them all well, and filled a backpack for each child with an assortment of snacks to help sustain them on the journey.

Secondly, choose a flat hike with fairly smooth terrain. Just trust me on this one. My thighs and back were paying the price for a couple of weeks. If you've got a baby on your back like I usually do, the constant bending over for picking is enough for a good day's work out. You don't need to add an incline to that. And little legs have to work that much harder than ours on rough terrain, so chose your hike wisely.

Third, choose a day with a good forecast. One of my low moments as a mom was when everyone was crying that their hands hurt from the cold and we could hear branches snapping from the strong winds blowing all around us. Add some rain into the mix and things just got more intense. At that point no one was having fun and we had to cut it short. As much as I love a stormy northwest day, they aren't the best for prolonged outdoors time with your littles, so plan accordingly.

Wild Mushroom Chowder with Bacon and Leeks

Fourth, make sure you and your kids are dressed appropriately. I’ll let you decide what that looks like. Just remember that an uncomfortable kid is a grumpy kid. Enough said.

Fifth, in their backpacks give them a paper bag to collect their own pieces of nature, binoculars to make them feel like they are really exploring and anything else you think might keep their attention longer. Involving your child is key to making this adventure something you can both fondly remember. (Also using words like 'adventure', 'journey', or 'exploring' doesn't hurt, either. My kids eat that stuff up.)

Lastly (and most importantly), if you don’t find any edible mushrooms (specifically chanterelles) don’t count it as a loss. The most important thing is that you and your kids enjoyed one another's company and spent a lovely day in a beautiful landscape. Foraging does not guarantee success every time (but if all you wanted was some mushrooms you'd just go to your local market). It's about so much more; the process, the search, the thrill of success when it comes. Enjoy it all.

Wild Mushroom Chowder with Bacon and Leeks

Our most recent foraging excursion was a few weeks ago in Mt. Hood National forest. The chanterelles were not abundant, but it was one of the most stunning hikes I’ve ever been on. At one point the trees opened up into a field of moss in shades of citron and pale gray. My boys threw off their backpacks and layed down on the soft ground. We ate lunch, laughed and talked about the beauty of nature. Bliss. I still haven’t found my sweet spot for striking mushroom gold, but there is always next year. I did however, find a little peace of heaven in that gorgeous forest and just enough mushrooms to make a lovely pot of soup. Inspired by Ashley Rodriguez, I created this creamy chowder with bacon and leeks, the perfect finish to a perfect day.

Wild Mushroom Chowder with Bacon and Leeks

Wild Mushroom Chowder with Bacon and Leeks

Serves 4

Ingredients

4-6 strips of thick bacon, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
2 tbsp butter
1 cup leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
8 oz chanterelles, roughly chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp flour (optional)
3/4 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 lb baby yukon gold potatoes, cut in half
1 cup cream
1 tbsp raw honey
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

Method

  1. In a large, dutch oven, cast-iron, or soup pot, over medium heat, fry the bacon pieces until slightly crispy. Add the butter, leeks and celery. Sauté the leek mixture for 5-7 minutes until the leeks and celery begin to soften.
  2. Turn the heat to medium-high and add the chanterelles, thyme and bay leaf. Sauté for 3-5 minutes, until the mushrooms begin to darken around the edges.
  3. Add the flour and stir to incorporate. Sauté with flour for 1 minutes longer.
  4. Deglaze the bottom of the pan, by slowly pouring the white wine in and scraping the bottom of the pot. Simmer for 3-5 minutes until the wine reduces by half.
  5. Add the chicken stock, potatoes, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne. Bring to a boil. As soon as the stock begins to boil, turn heat back down and simmer for 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
  6. Add the cream and raw honey. Heat through.
  7. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and adjust seasoning to your liking.

    *The inspiration for this recipe came from Ashely Rodriguez of the blog Not Without Salt.