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
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.

Popular Posts