My mother is a clever and resourceful woman, and that’s not a compliment – it’s a fact. Years of living in Russia trains you to be wired that way, and she is. I’m not sure how she does it, but no matter the season, mom is always prepared for the onslaught of visitors. Should anyone drop in unexpectedly, there is a slew of picked snacks (hello, Russian household), salads, Russian salamis and cheeses, not to mention various cookies, and chocolates, and fruit. Should you choose to show up at 2 o’clock at night, save for the some nasty glares, you’ll be sitting down to a full table in less than ten minutes. It’s that kind of Russian preparedness I have always admired.
When I was visiting last month, I volunteered to cook our dinner. I wanted to play with the light in my mother’s beautifully lit kitchen as my own kitchen, lovely as it may be, lacks natural light. I quite liked the soft, diffused daylight from the cloudy day – busying myself with apple sauce, chicken with mustard, and this dish. Earlier that afternoon, I had found a bag of frozen chanterelles in my mother’s freezer and I was curious. I have a soft spot for the yellow mushroom – growing up it was my favorite, and we ate it with abandon. It’s been more difficult, and costly, to find chanterelles in the US, but according to my mother, many Russian stores now carry bags of frozen chanterelles, which is a wonderful, and affordable compromise.
I decided to throw our old mushroom-chanterelle favorite combination together with some brown rice. We were under time constraints to eat before Yom Kippur started and I needed a quick and low-maintenance side dish. While the components were cooking, I prepared the chicken for roasting, and made a simple salad on the side. And then I curled up with a book in the living room, while our family cat decided to fall asleep at my feet, but not before kneading my soles with his. Sharp claws, is all I have to say on the matter. But the cuteness and the purring totally made up for it.
Brown Rice with Chanterelles and Caramelized Onions
2 cups brown rice
4 cups chanterelle mushrooms
2 onions, thinly sliced onions
In a pot, over medium heat, bring 2 cups of water to a boil and cook rice according to the instructions. Usually, it’s about 20-25 minutes on a gentle simmer, covered, undisturbed. You can also use a rice cooker for this purpose.
In a saute pan, heat up some olive oil on medium heat and saute the chanterelles, until they reduce in volume by half – about 15 minutes. Empty into a bowl, and set aside.
In the same pan, heat up a little more oil over medium heat, and cook the onions, until they caramelize. You do this by slowly sweating the onions, then letting them get golden brown. When the onions start changing color, decrease heat to low, and cover the onions with a piece of parchment paper. Periodically, lift the paper to stir the onions. You may sprinkle a tiny bit of sugar and salt to aid the caramelization process. After about 40 minutes, your onions should be done. Throw the chanterelles in the for about a minute just to mix everything together and warm the mushrooms up, and then combine everything with rice in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.
This also keeps very well and tastes better the next day. Though in my parents’ house, it was gone that very evening.
Serves 6 as a side, 4 as a vegan, gluten-free main dish.