Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Porcini Heaven. There are friends, and then friends who bear gifts of mushrooms. Not the common white kind but GOLDEN mushrooms, such as porcini. And in this case it seems he brought me literal pocket gold, as I noticed the price of $39.99 per pound for these at the local grocery.
A few years ago, he was kind enough to take me mushrooming a couple times, and recommended the above books. I loved the experience of tromping around the forest in the early morning light, smelling the fresh earthy smell and carrying a cute wicker basket. I noticed that mushroomers are rather protective of their special secret territories, and will hop up at the drop of a hat when there has been a rain conducive to mushroom growth.
So he dropped off quite a weighty bunch of porcini, and advised me that I must cook them no later than the next day, and that the best way to keep them would be in a colander, with a damp towel draping over the top.
So how does one prepare these? Well, the first thing I found out, was that unlike buying them in the grocery store where this is pre-done, when you harvest them from the wild, you need to remove their the spongy part that is attached to the 'green gills'. You can see in the above photo, I've loosened the gills from the cap, and then I tore it off cleanly. Honestly, this task made ME turn green under the gills and wonder who ever had the bright idea of ever eating these in the first place???
As my friend suggested, I reserved the green gills aside, as they can be put in a cheesecloth and simmered in water to make a delicious porcini broth.
So now I had some beautiful, cleaned porcini (I used my mushroom brush to clean the remainder of the mushrooms).
Now on to the chopping - which can be done to your preference, it doesn't matter if its lengthwise or crosswise. I chose crosswise.
I got a large bowl of pieces from the three gigantic porcini, and it was ready to saute.
My friend advised to use olive oil to smooth out and reduce the amount of butter, but to also use butter liberally, along with pressed garlic cloves (5) . So I used about a quarter cup of organic extra virgin olive oil, and half a stick of organic unsalted butter... then part way through I though, why should I skimp on the butter with rare ingredients like these! So I threw in the other half stick of butter! OK, maybe a whole stick was rather excessive since it started looking a bit like butter soup flavored with mushrooms, but it STILL tasted delightful.
But why care when a most delicious slice of toasted, very fresh multi-grain bread was the base to soak in the saucy excess? I had to serve it with a sharp steak knife as I thought this meaty-mushroom and crisp weighty bread deserved no less. So delicious!
And this post just begged to be part of Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Vanessa at What Geeks Eat.
Wikipedia has a nice write up of Porcini. Many myths have been spread about mushrooms. One of the most inaccurate is that mushrooms have no nutritional value. To properly consider them for their nutritional benefits, they must be viewed from a dried weight perspective. And mushrooms give you maximum nutritional benefit only upon cooking. Mushrooms are relatively high in protein, averaging about 20% of their dried mass. Further they contribute a wide range of essential amino acids. Low in fat (between .3 and 2%) and high in fiber, mushrooms also provide several groups of vitamins, particularly thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, biotin, ascorbic acid and Vitamin D. For more information on the nutritional properties of mushrooms, Paul Stamets, founder of Fungi Perfecti, published an extensive study of 24 major nutrients in 16 mushroom species and varieties. See: Stamets, P., 2005. “Notes on Nutritional Properties of Culinary-Medicinal Mushrooms”, International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, vol. 7: 103–110.