All mushrooms are luscious to many of us. They are also versatile and especially good-for-you. However, if you have an introduction to the mushroom exotica family such as porcini (also called cepe), you will positively swoon. The earthiness imparts a flavor referred to as umami which is the 5th primary taste after sweet, sour, salty and bitter. This recently discovered taste occurs naturally in many foods and expands well to round out flavors. So there you have it, folks. That formerly unexplained allure of the wild mushroom.
The best way to experience this exotica is to buy small amounts of them dehydrated-which works best for our winter weather anyway since fresh local vegetables are slim pickings this time of year. The dehydration concentrates the mushroom flavor; the result of the rehydrated version reveals an alluring essence which words can’t quite adequately describe.
Bon Apetit Magazine tells us that Porcini mushrooms are a favorited fungi. Why? Because the earthy, rich-tasting mushrooms impart a pungent, woodsy flavor to any number of dishes, from risotto to soup. Porcini are usually sold dried in the United States, but may be available fresh in late spring or in the fall at some farmers’ markets. Dried porcini are usually sliced before being dried. You will want to cut them in smaller pieces with kitchen shears before rehydrating.
In our region, you’ll have a difficult time finding them fresh unless the Mushroom Lady at Jones Falls Expressway Farmers Market in Baltimore can give you a supply. No worries, as the concentrated flavor of the dehydrated variety goes a very long way to make them worth the steep price.
Caramelized Porcini and Apple Chicken
This dish of brown buttered apple slices, white wine infused porcini, shallots and caramelized chicken yields a most enticing dish for special occasions. Pasta or rice makes a delicious bed for the porcini-chicken masterpiece. Or make sure to serve with bread to soak up those precious juices.
- 2 tart organic apples (no need to peel), sliced into thin wedges
- 3 tablespoons quality butter, such as from your local farmer or Kerrygold Irish butter
- 2 medium shallots, minced
- 1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms, snipped into small pieces, rehydrated in white wine then drained
- 1 pound chicken tenders, patted dry, sprinkled with salt and pepper
- Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
In a medium skillet, over medium high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Let it bubble for a moment and then add apple wedges and cook to a golden brown on each side. Remove and reserve the apples on a serving platter.
Melt the second tablespoon of butter and add the shallots and porcini, retaining the soaking liquid. Saute until shallots are golden. Hold along with the apples.
Melt the third tablespoon of butter and brown chicken tenders until golden and caramelized on each side. Return the apples, shallots porcini and soaking liquid to the skillet, add a dash of salt and pepper and saute until all are warm. Serve immediately.