Elegant and Earthy, Porcini Mushrooms Can Add So Much to a Meal
There are many mushrooms out there and so many ways to add their earthiness to a dish or meal–but they're not all the same. Porcini mushrooms are unique so we thought we'd shine a light on them and give you a few ideas on how to cook with porcinis.
Related Recipe: Porcini Eggplant
What Are Porcini Mushrooms?
Porcini mushrooms are true wild mushrooms—they're not farmed or cultivated but they are edible mushrooms (also known as boletus edulis). Foragers find them in wet forests where pine, hemlock and oak trees grow. These large, stubby brown-capped mushrooms have a meaty flavor similar to shiitake mushrooms, but it's not quite as sharp. The big caps and dense stems give you a lot to work with in the kitchen, including an indescribable umami flavor. Porcini are unique in that instead of having gills, the undersides of the caps are smooth. While their name suggests they grow in Italy (and they do), they also grow in other parts of the world. You can find them in forests in other parts of Europe, North America (including the United States), New Zealand and South Africa.
Related Recipe: Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Porcini Mushrooms
Buying Porcini Mushrooms
If you time it right, you might be able to buy fresh porcini mushrooms at your regular grocery store, but you might have better luck at a specialty store or the farmers' market. Dried porcini mushrooms are easier to find. They're available in most places where dried mushrooms are sold, or you can find dried porcini online. Canned porcini are also an option, but their flavor is often muted.
Related Recipe: Slow-Cooker Mushroom Soup with Sherry
Whether you're an omnivore who likes to elevate a dish with mushrooms or a vegetarian who likes the texture and weight mushrooms give to a meatless meal, you'll get a lot more out of this fungus than just flavor. Porcini offer iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber and some protein. (Check out 5 Amazing Health Benefits of Mushrooms here.)
Related Recipe: Fennel, Porcini & Chicken Cacciatore
How to Cook with Porcini Mushrooms
While people love fresh mushrooms, dried porcini mushrooms are easiest to come by and that's not a bad thing. Dried mushrooms add a lot of earthy flavor to broths and soups when they're ground into a powder, but you can also rehydrate them and cook with them as you would with fresh mushrooms.
To do this, pouring boiling water over them and let them steep in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Drain them through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth over a bowl. And don't toss out their soaking liquid! It's full of rich and earthy mushroom flavor and can be added to stews, soups and sauces or risotto. If you're lucky enough to find fresh porcini, brush or gently rinse the mushroom caps to get rid of any dirt. From there, you can chop and sauté them, add them to soup, or even grill them whole. Fresh porcini mushrooms are best used as soon as possible but can be kept in the refrigerator in a paper bag for up to 3 days.