Dried porcini

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Fresh and dried porcini are different ingredients with different qualities, and they're used differently in cooking. You can use dried porcini all year long in countless ways; in sauces, stews, soups, pasta dishes, risottos, and even in bread. They're the perfect seasoning for those who cook and eat more vegetarian dishes, but miss the rich taste of meat. If stored in airtight bags or jars, dried porcini aren't perishable, although they sometimes develop more intense flavors after long storage.

You can buy dried porcini in most grocery stores, in specialty shops or by mail-order. expect to pay $4 to $5 for ½-ounce packets; however, a little goes a long way. Here's a guide to buying the best: ~ Large pieces are usually preferable to small.

~ The darker the color, the more intense the flavor, and the more judicious you need to be when adding the soaking liquid to recipes.

extremely dark porcini may be older and unpleasantly strong.

~ Whatever the color, look for uniformity of color among pieces.

~ Look for mostly cap pieces or a mix that has no more than 50% stem pieces, but avoid mixes with too many pieces from large mature caps with predominantly dark green tubes.

~ Avoid porcini with lots of tiny holes, evidence of prior extensive larvae habitation.

~ Smell before you buy, if possible. The aroma should be deep, rich, pleasant, and inviting.

~ Look for the Latin name, Boletus edulis, on the package, which should guarantee that you're getting the real thing.

As with any dried mushroom, dried porcini need a thorough soaking before use. For each ½-ounce of dried porcini, add 1 cup hot water. Add or subtract mushrooms form that ratio to modify the intensity of the liquid to suit your particular recipe.

Soak the porcini for 30 minutes, and then take the mushrooms out and squeeze out all the liquid. Strain the liquid through a coffee filter to remove any soil or mulch that may have dried with the mushrooms.

This is your porcini liquor, a potent name for a potent ingredient.

Use it sparingly, because too strong a flavor can overwhelm and ruin a dish.

The liquor's flavor fades quickly, so if you don't use it the same day, freeze it. You can use the mushroom pieces, after a quick rinse, but they're of secondary importance.

Another way to use dried porcini is to turn them into a fine powder with an electric coffee grinder. The flavor and aroma of porcini powder is released by contact with moisture. Season fish or chicken by patting on a light coating of the powder. Add a small spoonful to a sauce or broth, dust it over steamed vegetables, or work it into bread or pasta dough. Make only small quantities of porcini powder at a time because the flavor can become unpleasantly strong when exposed to air for a long period of time.

Another delicious and versatile condiment is porcini-flavored oil. Put about 1 ounce of dried porcini pieces into a 16-ounce bottle of extra-virgin olive oil and wait. The flavor develops slowly over a period of up to 2 weeks. Refrigerated, the oil will keep for up to 3 months.

Fine Cooking

Oct-Nov 1995

Submitted By DIANE LAZARUS On 11-13-95

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