It’s the dark, damp evenings when you start to feel the chill of autumn coming on that always make me think of funghi.
Also known as Boletus edulis or the King Bolete, or “penny bun” for its round, puffy shape, the meaty porcini is considered the crème de la crème of fungi. (Porcino is Italian for “piglet.”) Boletes are large: the brown cap is three to 12 inches across and sticky to the touch; the stalk is white and plump. You’ll find King Bolete here in Europe; also in Asia and North America. Porcinis grow under trees in the woods, actually wrapping around the roots underground. And in case you’re considering foraging for your own, you’ll be glad to know porcinis are considered the safest wild mushroom to pick. Here, you’ll often find porcinis clumped like a little gnome forest under a chestnut tree.
Forested areas throughout the world.
Firm and white/brown colour.
Sautéed, dried or grilled.
One aficionado calls the porcini 'one of God’s great gifts to humanity, a mushroom delicate enough to flavour a sauce, yet vigorous enough to stand up to a grilled steak with Barolo.' I have to agree.
The mushroom hunters among us start racking our brains to recall our favourite secret spots where we’ll return, alone with a basket and headlamp, to hunt for the spongy disks bursting up through the pine-sprinkled carpet under giant conifers.
I love mushrooms because of their earthy taste and delicate texture. And nutty, rich porcinis are the most versatile. My favourite way to prepare them is sautéed in a salad, as the base of a stew or sauce, or tossed with olive oil, thyme, butter and fresh pasta. Consider grilling large porcinis, the "poor man’s steak."
Fall just wouldn’t be fall without mushrooms. A real treat. Make sure to buy the freshest porcinis you can find when they're in season (now!) and cook them right away. They should be firm, with no dents or nicks, and white/brown, not yellowish. Just wipe with a damp, cool cloth — don’t wash. Off-season, you can use dried porcinis steeped in water to rehydrate. Pair with a full-bodied Italian red wine, such as a Piedmont Barbaresco, to complement their earthiness.