Funghi porcini, with their meaty texture, pronounced flavor, and heady, earthy fragrance, are by far Italy's most valued wild mushrooms, and when they are fresh, they are a great treat: you can grill them, use them to top pizzas, make sauces with them, and more. Here are three ways to make them:
1) If the caps are large, around 4-6 inches in diameter, you can make Grilled porcini mushrooms; there was a time when a grilled porcino cap was called a "poor man's steak." Remove the stems, which are perfect for making sauce (see below). Rub the caps with a slice of lemon, cut slits into them with the tip of a sharp paring knife, and insert slivers of garlic and nepitella (or thyme) leaves to taste. Give them an initial blast of high heat, and then raise the grill from the coals, and turn them several times. When they are done, transfer them to a serving dish, add a few drops of melted butter or olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and serve. They are wonderful with grilled steak, and even better if served directly on top of the steaks.
2) You can also fry porcini: Cut them lengthwise into 1/4 inch-wide slices, dredge the slices in flour (if the flour doesn't stick, dip them first in cool water, pat them dry and then dredge them in flour), then dip the floured slices one at a time in chilled water to barely dampen the flour (this serves to make them crunchier -- do not soak them), and fry them in hot oil until golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper, sprinkle with salt, and serve immediately. This will also work well with other kinds of flavorful, meaty mushrooms.
3) This recipe below, for stewed porcini mushrooms, is a simple way to stew them for use either as a pasta sauce, a side dish to accompany a substantial main course (such as steak or roast beef), or a topping for crostini, as an antipasto appetizer.
In Tuscany, where porcini mushrooms are abundant, they are traditionally sauted together with a form of wild mint known as nepitella, or mentuccia. Since that can be impossible to find elsewhere ,you can substitute fresh thyme, or just use flat-leaf parsley instead.
[Edited by Danette St. Onge]
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic (peeled and finely minced or crushed)
- 1 sprig nepitella (or thyme, fresh, leaves removed from stem and stem discarded)
- 1 pound porcini mushrooms (fresh, cleaned, scrub them while dry with a clean vegetable brush to remove any visible dirt, and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices, both stems and caps)
- 1 tomato (plum, ripe, cored, and diced)
- Salt (fine, sea) to taste
- Black pepper to taste
Saute the garlic and nepitella (or thyme or parsley) in the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan for 1-2 minutes over medium heat, or until it turns just pale golden.
Add the mushrooms, increase the heat to high, and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms have given off their water; reduce the heat to low, stir in the tomato, and simmer for about 30 minutes (this gives the tomato the time it requires to cook down into the sauce).
Should the mushrooms begin to dry out, sprinkle them with white wine or broth.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, garnish with the fresh parsley, and serve.
Note: You can also stew porcini without the tomato, in which case, they are known as porcini trifolati. In this case, use parsley rather than nepitella in the cooking, and cook until the mushrooms have reabsorbed their juices and are fork-tender, adding a splash of white wine, if desired. This recipe, with or without tomato, will also work with other flavorful mushrooms, so feel free to try it with whatever wild mushrooms are available in your market.