Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Porcini Power

Power? Yes, the power to add wonderful nutty, deep woodsy porcini mushroom flavor to virtually any dish you are cooking. Soups, stews and sauces are enhanced by their rich, complex flavor.

Porcini mushrooms are not cultivated, they are collected in the wild. They are native to North America and Europe and are usually found near evergreen or hardwood trees as they form a symbiotic relationship with the trees. This also makes them resistant to commercial cultivation.

Very popular because of their strong flavor, the porcini is exported to gourmet shops and cooks around the world. Their strong aroma, even when dried, is a good test for freshness and in many cases can escape the packaging before they are opened. Stale dried porcini do not have the characteristic flavor and aroma. Their strong flavor makes them an excellent partner to garlic, shallots and onions.

Dried porcini mushrooms are packed with concentrated flavor just waiting to be released simply by soaking them in water or any other cooking liquid.

Gently warm (do not boil) 2 cup of water, stock, wine, port, sherry, beer, brewed tea, coffee or fruit juice in a sauce pan. Add 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms and soak for 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and strain the soaking liquid and reserve. Cook the mushrooms as you would any other mushroom, or mix them with fresh mushrooms to add a heightened flavor to the dish. The strained liquid is the perfect addition to use in place of any cooking liquid. Or use it to make a pan sauce by deglazing the pan after sauteing meat, poultry or seafood.

I like to use porcini powder as a dry rub or to enliven a favorite dry rub seasoning. Simply fill a clean and dry spice grinder with dried porcini and grind to a fine powder. Strain the powder through a fine mesh strainer and regrind any larger pieces left behind. The porcini powder is now ready to use.

Sprinkled on chicken, fish, meat or vegetables, added to rice, potato or pasta dishes, or as a flavor buster in stuffed mushrooms, porcini powder is power.

No comments: