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Fresh Porcini: What to do with them? Or, How To Cook Porcini

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Fresh Porcini: What to do with them? Or, How To Cook Porcini
Porcini are Italy's most valued wild mushrooms by far, and when fresh are a great treat: you can grill them, make sauce with them, and more. The ingredients for the stewed porcini recipe below follow.

Ingredients:

  • A ripe plum tomato, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • A sprig of nipitella (substitute thyme)
  • A quarter cup of olive oil
  • A tablespoon of minced parsley, as garnish (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

The answer depends, to a certain degree, on their size.

If the caps are large, 4-6 inches across, you should consider grilling them -- there was a time when a grilled porcino cap was called the poor man's steak. Remove the stems, which are perfect for making sauce (see below). Rub the caps with a slice of cut lemon, and stick them with slivers of garlic and sprigs of nipitella (substitute thyme) 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 oil if you like it, salt and pepper to taste, and serve. They are wonderful with grilled steak, and even better if served directly on top of the steaks.

If your porcini are smaller, you can make porcini in umido -- stewed porcini. For about a pound of mushrooms you will need the other ingredients listed above. What to do:

Crush the garlic and sauté it with the nipitella in a heavy bottomed pot for a few minutes or until it turns golden. Cut the mushrooms (stems and caps) directly into the pot, in bite-sized pieces, turn 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 a half hour (this give the tomatoes the time they require to cook into the sauce). Should the mushrooms begin to dry out, sprinkle them with white wine or broth. Garnish the mushrooms with the parsley, and serve, as an accompaniment to a substantial main course, for example roast beef or a stew.

Note: you can also stew porcini without the tomato, at which point they are porcini trifolati. In this case use parsley rather than nipitella in the cooking, and cook until the mushrooms have reabsorbed their juices and are fork-tender, adding a sprinkling of white wine if need be. This recipe, with or without tomato, will also work with other flavorful mushrooms, so feel free to try it with whatever mushrooms are available in your market.

You can also fry porcini: Cut them lengthwise into quarter-inch wide strips, flour them (if the flour doesn't stick, dip them in cool water, pat them dry and flour them), dip them 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, dust with salt, and serve. This will again work well with other kinds of mushrooms, so long as they're flavorful to begin with.

As a final alternative, make salsa di funghi, mushroom sauce, which goes quite well on pasta, and also as an antipasto, spread on crostini.

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