The finished dish, ham and wild mushroom fettucine.

The rains blistered. The cedar shingles, 100 years old, began losing their grip. Decaying branches whipped and dropped from the high spruce. A few of massive limbs held far-ranging consequences.

Hard wind and harder gusts now wrapped our house in a 90-mile-per-hour grip, diminishing any leftover summer security. It was time to hibernate inside with dreams of sugar plums dancing in our heads.

The lights dimmed, fluttered, then suddenly blew out. The cold moved in and the night sky began to descend. All seemed hopeless, as there would be no television tonight.

Half-burned candles, long buried in overstuffed drawers, came out. I lit the wood stove, grateful that I had stocked a few days’ worth of dry firewood on the covered porch. While there was still natural light, I began to prep for dinner. On our gas stove, I prepared for ham and mushroom pasta, cooking off fettuccine noodles first, letting them sit and drain.

Stuffed in a dark corner was a 1,500-piece jigsaw puzzle with a theme of a frenetic kitchen — complete with screaming chefs waving knives and dispirited waiters scurrying in a panic. The scene happens to be more common than most patrons would expect — remember “Kitchen Confidential?”


A portion of the puzzle.

Ultimately, the lights came back on, each as bright and hopeful as our jigsaw expectations. But soon, tempers began to flare. I naively considered 1,500 pieces to be a challenge. So it was, and is, weeks later.

“Where the hell is that corner piece?”

“Don’t you dare move my pile!”

Days passed and three edge pieces remained missing. A nest of tiny white cutouts lay in large piles, unidentifiable. We plowed on, even calling friends for help at times. Now, days later, I am sorry to admit, we are only about a half of the way through the quagmire. So it is back to the stove, a piece of heavy equipment that I am comfortable with. Here are the ingredients for the wild mushroom fettuccine with my blessings.


  • 12 ounces of dried fettuccine noodles
  • 2 tablespoons each of butter and olive oil
  • ½ red onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh minced garlic, very fine
  • Two pounds wild chanterelle mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • Four ounces of ¼ inch diced ham
  • ½ cup of homemade chicken stock
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • Two heaping tablespoons of basil pesto
  • Salt to taste
  • Plenty of shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Finely chopped fresh herbs: parsley, oregano, and chives



Some of the dish’s ingredients.

Cook off the fettuccine noodles first, letting them sit and drain. Later, you can refresh them, al dente in boiling water.

Sauté garlic and onion until translucent, then add the chanterelles in equal parts of virgin olive oil and butter. Add the diced ham.

Pour in the cream and stock. Add a couple tablespoons of basil pesto to finish off the dish. Salt to taste, remembering that Parmesan cheese is already salty.

Reduce the liquid until about half. After tossing the fettuccine noodles with the sauce, shave fresh Parmesan cheese over the top, and sprinkle on finely chopped herbs. Pair with a glass of chardonnay.

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