Porcini Roasted in Miso Garlic Butter

Each year, I celebrate finding the first porcini of the season by cooking a special dish (and also quite a bit of squealing, running around in circles, dancing, and clapping). In the past, I've made porcini risotto. This year, it was porcini pizza. Next year, I'm certain I will be cooking this recipe, as it perfectly captures the aroma of Boletus edulis just plucked from the cool forest floor (and I'm not saying that in hyperbolic sell-the-post food writer-ese, it's the darned truth).

You'd think that would be a fairly easy thing to do, to perfectly highlight the taste of porcini. Not so. They can easily be over-fussed, and their flavor almost totally lost in a recipe. As far as I'm concerned, fresh porcini are so special that their flavor shouldn't be masked, and they should never appear generically as "any old mushroom" in a dish. Forget drowning them in heavy tomato sauces or obscuring them with strong cheeses. A recipe should erect a bright neon sign declaring that you are eating porcini, the king of all mushrooms.

Enter miso garlic butter. I first tasted this miracle butter last fall during a girls' weekend with my buddies Ellen, Jen, and Kathya. For one of our dinners, Kat made chicken thighs (all dark meat lovers in da house) smothered in a creamy combination of miso, butter, and a whole head of roasted garlic (check out her recipe here). We were all blown away. Those few simple ingredients transformed chicken into something that was sticky-golden, decadent, and quite nearly cheesy-tasting with umami.

I've kept a jar of miso garlic butter in my fridge ever since. It's good on pretty much everything you can imagine. I've had it on fish, topping mussels on the half-shell, rubbed over all manner of meat, atop veggies, and stirred into mashed potatoes. You will likely have leftover miso garlic butter after making this recipe. It keeps well, so stick it into the fridge and enjoy experimenting with it at future meals. Kat reports that she's started playing with the recipe by using red miso, gochujang, and honey. Genius.

 Porcini Roasted in Miso Garlic Butter

1/2 lb. butter, softened
1/2 c. white miso
1 head roasted garlic
1 Tbsp. mirin
2 lbs. fresh young (pores still creamy or beige) porcini mushrooms, cut in half or quarters depending on size

1.  In a bowl, use a fork to mash together the butter, miso, and all of the garlic cloves you can squeeze out of the head. Stir in the mirin.

2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

3. Use your hands to rub the porcini pieces with a thick layer of the miso garlic butter. Yes, cowgirl up and use your hands! Lay each piece of mushroom onto the baking sheet, flat side down, and dab a little extra miso butter on the top. As it bakes, the bottom side will sizzle brown and the top side will form a crust. I find that the mushrooms are perfectly seasoned by the miso alone, but you can lightly sprinkle the mushrooms with salt at this point if you'd prefer a saltier end-product.

4. Bake the porcini mushrooms in a 425˚ (F) oven for 15-20 minutes, depending upon the size of your mushroom pieces. You want the mushrooms to be fully cooked (see if a knife will easily slide into one), and the miso garlic butter to have formed a crusty brown coating on the mushrooms. Serve immediately.

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