How to Cook Fresh Porcini


There's a phrase in my house that explains everything that happens at this time of year - But, mushrooms.

The counter is stacked with dishes. But, mushrooms.

Waking up at 4 a.m. so that I can be on the trail at daybreak is nuts. But, mushrooms.

I really should be working. But, mushrooms.

You see, here in the Rockies, the porcini (Boletus rubriceps) only grow in a short window of time between the summer monsoons and when the rain dries up or the nights get too cold. You have to get while the gettin's good. If you're among the mushroom-obsessed, everything else falls by the wayside during those few weeks. Even my closest relationships get neglected. But, mushrooms.

After tasting a batch of fresh porcini that I had cooked up, my buddy Wild Food Girl encouraged me to share my recipe. You see, fresh porcini are a different animal from dried ones. Their flavor is milder and more delicate. This recipe isn't chef-y or fancy. Rather, it is something that developed over years of cooking with the porcini I've harvested. There are many ways to approach this task, this is what has evolved in my kitchen. It can be the base of any number of recipes, and keeps well in the fridge and even the freezer. Push some of these cooked porcini into a fresh pizza crust, along with torn Monarda (wild oregano) and some cheese, and you'll have a pizza that will make angels weep. Use them as a base for sauces or soups. Toss them into your eggs. Trail a line of these mushrooms over your favorite meat, or stir them into a side dish. Tuck them into ravioli with cheese. Or serve these cooked fresh porcini over polenta (pictured).



Maximizing Flavor in Fresh Porcini


fresh porcini mushrooms, sliced to 1/4"
butter (or olive oil)
onions, sliced
garlic powder
salt
water
white wine (optional)

1. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet (it really must be cast iron or stainless steel, do not use non-stick!) over medium heat.

2. Place the sliced mushrooms into the dry skillet, without the butter. Fresh mushrooms have a high water content, and this helps to drive the moisture from them and helps them cook more quickly. Let the mushrooms cook over medium heat until any water has nearly boiled out of them, stirring occasionally. You want there to be a single layer of mushrooms on the bottom of the pan once the water has boiled out. If the pan is overcrowded, they'll just steam, and won't take on a good brown. Use your best judgment as to what size skillet to use.

3. Add a knob of butter, enough to lubricate the pan. Stir.

4. Throw the onions into the pan, as well as a good dash of garlic powder (don't mock! I started using garlic powder when I lived with someone who complained about the smell of fresh garlic, but I actually like the mild flavor of powdered garlic here), and a good pinch of salt.

5. Here's the tricky part. You let the mushrooms and onions cook as long as they need, which may be 10 minutes, or it maybe be 30 minutes. Every time there seems to be brown gook (fond) sticking to the bottom of the pan that seems in danger of burning, toss in a small amount of water (just enough to lift the brown from the pan, not so much as to make the mushrooms swim), and scrape it away with a wooden spatula. It's a process, but you'll be rewarded for your effort.

6. When the mushrooms look to have taken on a golden brown, you can do the last deglazing (scraping the brown gook from the bottom of the skillet) with white wine. Or you can use water if that is all you have. Taste a mushroom. Does it need more salt? If so, now is the time to add it. Serve the mushrooms in any of the ways suggested above.


Comments

  1. Interesting. I never would have guessed there was a difference between fresh mushrooms and dried.

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    Replies
    1. Both are really good, but drying concentrates the flavor of porcini.

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  2. Just what I needed, thank you. I'm trying and learning. Hope to have your knowledge some day.

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    Replies
    1. It just takes time, Hugh. It was no different for me. It took me years and years to really understand how to effectively find porcini.

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  3. YUM. I'm posting my mushroom bolognese recipe today! :)

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  4. This is actually really good to know. I've never heard of dry sauteeing. Is it common with mushrooms?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, dry sauteing is a pretty common technique with mushrooms. It sounds a little odd if you've never tried it before, but it works really well.

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  5. Oh wow. How many people have access to fresh porcini? Wish I was one of them.

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    1. I think that, for the most part, people who pick them are the ones who have fresh porcini. But I have heard of some people buying them for a high price.

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    2. I found mine at 0630hrs today on Mount Etna.

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    3. I just found some on an old road by my house here in Atlin, BC. I cant wait to try this method of cooking them! I havnt been able to get them before the bugs before so this is very exciting!!
      We call them Boletes here.
      Thanks Butter!

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  6. I'm thankful for this article to. If I should ever find one I doubt I'd know what to do with it or would be intimidate by it.

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    Replies
    1. If you've found one and are confident about your ID, then just enjoy it!

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  7. THAT is a beautiful thing.

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  8. What are butt mushrooms? (No, you didn't misspell it, but I couldn't help myself.) Muhahaha!

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  9. Thanks for the great post here, with a lot of good tips. Have you ever tried freezing porcini? Here in Finland those who freeze them fall into two camps: those who freeze them raw and sliced, and those who slice, sauté, and then freeze. Do you have a method you'd recommend? I've only ever dried them, but this year is turning out to be exceptional for porcini in Finland, so I will pop a few in the freezer as well.

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    Replies
    1. I have frozen them, sauteed first, but wasn't as happy with their flavor afterward as I was with dried. If you find success with freezing them, will you let me know how you did it?

      Congrats on the great year for boomers! I can hardly imagine anything better.

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    2. Hi Butter, I took the advice of a friend and froze them sliced and raw. I tossed them straight into a hot dry pan and cooked them until most of the liquid steamed away. I then added a little duck fat, chopped chives and a little salt. They were as good as fresh, better than I'd hoped and a nice exclamation point next to my eggs this morning! My experience with the pre-cooked version was the same as yours: disappointing. I'm definitely a new fan of the "freeze 'em raw" contingent!

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  10. Just picked a 2 1/2-pound King. It grew in the clear-plastic-covered tomato enclosure (we're in sight of the chilly North Pacific). Glad to find your recipe!

    Mitch Clogg
    Mendocino

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  11. Delicious! Declaring in the end with a bit of dry sherry brought the flavors up a notch! Thanks!

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  12. Should mushrooms be washed? Thank you.

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    Replies
    1. Depends upon how dirty they are. If they are fresh and clean, I don't worry about it. But I've certainly bathed a lot of mushrooms, especially oysters, meadow mushrooms, and chanterelles.

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