Thursday, May 29, 2008

Boletes Anyone?

Today, our first porcini (Boletus edulis) of the year arrived from Oregon. One of the most prized edible mushrooms in the world, porcini (also known as boletes or cèpes) are also one of my favorites. Tonight they are destined for the appetizer menu as Porcini Trifolati, a classic Tuscan preparation. On the weekend, I have no doubt that I will do Porcini Risotto, by far my favorite way to eat them.

While many mushrooms have similar flavors fresh and after drying and being reconstituted (morels, for example), porcini have entirely different flavors when fresh and dried. Fresh porcini remind me of a nutty potato in flavor, while the dried ones have an indescribably deep, rich flavor that screams porcini. I prefer dried porcini. When I make risotto with fresh porcini, I always use stock made from dried porcini to cook the rice.

Without further ado, here is the (highly precise and totally accurate) recipe from tonight's dinner menu. This is an appetizer designed to generate a bowl of garlic butter into which you can dip your bread once you've eaten your mushrooms.

Porcini Trifolati

unsalted butter, clarified
fresh porcini, cubed
garlic, minced
parsley, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Heat clarified butter over high flame in a sauté pan and when hot, add the mushrooms. Let the mushrooms brown before stirring them. Try to brown them on most sides, adding more clarified butter as necessary. As the mushrooms start to cook down, reduce the flame to moderate and add copious quantities of fresh garlic and parsley. Let cook slowly until the mushrooms are silky and the garlic is very soft. Season to taste (I always add more fresh parsley at this point). Serve with excellent bread.

This is a phenomenal recipe to do with baby artichokes (quarter them) or large artichokes (slice them thinly on the mandoline). It also works extremely well with shiitakes as a substitute (and is the basis for Nancy's Pasta on our lunch menu).

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