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Fall cooking with Mushrooms
When the weather cools off my taste buds yearn for mushrooms. It must have something to do with the woodsy scent of leaves turning colors and falling to the ground or it could be that I usually travel to Italy in the fall when Porcini mushrooms come into season.
The Porcini mushroom is the king of Italian mushrooms—quite frankly, I think that it is the king of all mushrooms. Visually, they are quite the character, evoking images of wood nymphs and fairies perched upon their thick domed tops. Ever so much the toadstool with a strong earthy, forest floor aroma, they bring an indescribable flavor to any dish and they have a very firm, fleshy texture. When traveling in Italy I never miss an opportunity to eat a dish with the King.
Sadly, it is impossible to find fresh Porcini in America, but dried Porcini mushrooms can be found in most grocery stores across the country. Dried mushrooms have a much more concentrated flavor, so a little (1 ounce) can go a long way to flavoring a dish. I like to combine dried Porcini with fresh mushrooms so there is a balance of flavors between the strong flavor of the Porcini and milder varieties like white button mushrooms. And don’t think that there is no place for white button mushrooms. They are a great way to extend the flavors of other mushrooms when combined and they won’t overpower subtle flavors.
A few pointers about using dried mushrooms:
1. They must be re-hydrated before using. Place 1 ounce of dried mushrooms into a container and add 2 cups very hot, almost boiling, water and let the mushrooms steep for about 10 minutes, until they are tender. Remove from the water, squeezing any liquid out of the mushrooms back into the steeping container.
2. Strain the steeping liquid through a fine sieve, coffee filter or paper towels to remove any grit. Reserve the strained liquid to use as a flavorful mushroom broth in a recipe.
3. Once reconstituted, dried mushrooms may be used like any other fresh mushrooms.
Here is an Italian recipe from my book and my cooking app that uses the great flavor of mushrooms—including dried Porcini. I think you’ll enjoy this quick and easy fall-flavored dish. In the book and app I use Penne pasta, but in the recipe below and the cooking video above, I use Farfalle (“Butterflies” pasta in Italian, “Bow Tie” pasta in English).
All hail the King!
Farfalle with Mushrooms and Cream
Farfalle con Funghi e Crema
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 pound mixed fresh mushrooms (such as cremini, shiitake, chanterelle and white button mushrooms) cleaned and cut into a medium dice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 cup white wine (if going Italian, use a Pinot Grigio)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
1 pound farfalle (bow tie) pasta
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Grana Padano cheese, more for garnish
Place the dried Porcini in a small bowl and cover with 2 cups warm water, placing a teacup saucer on the mushrooms to keep them submerged. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the Porcini, reserving the liquid. Chop the Porcini into a medium dice. Line a strainer with paper towels and strain the reserved liquid into a bowl. Set aside.
Add the diced Porcini mushrooms to the diced fresh mushrooms and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic, and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Add a 1/2 cup of the reserved Porcini liquid and cook 4 to 5 minutes until the liquid has almost evaporated. Add the white wine and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the wine has reduced by half. Raise the heat to medium high and add the mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook the mushrooms, stirring frequently, until they are golden and have released their juices, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the cream and the remaining reserved Porcini liquid, bring to a boil and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to thicken. Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons salt, and then the farfalle pasta to the boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally until the pasta is al dente—tender but firm to the bite. Drain the pasta and add to the mushroom skillet. Turn the heat on medium and toss the pasta and the sauce together until they are well combined. Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley and cheese. Garnish each serving with additional grated cheese.
Serves 6 to 8 people.