The porcini mushroom is the most rewarding of all fungi in the kitchen for its taste and versatility. Its flavor is nutty and slightly meaty, with a smooth, creamy texture, and a distinctive aroma reminiscent of sourdough. Young, small porcini are most appreciated by gourmets, as the large ones often harbor maggots, and become slimy, soft and less tasty with age. Fruit bodies are collected by holding the stipe near the base and twisting gently. Peeling and washing are not recommended. In English porcini is called the ‘penny bun’ and all over Europe it is generally agreed by connoisseurs to be among the finest eating mushrooms. In France ceps make great eating and are highly valued by chefs and gourmets. They can also be very expensive, particularly when fresh, although dried ceps tend to be better value. Porcini are sold fresh in markets in summer and autumn in Central and Southern Europe, and in other countries they are available dried or canned at other times of the year. They are usually eaten and enjoyed raw, sautéed with butter, ground into pasta, in soups, and in many other dishes. In France, in the Provençal cuisine they are used in recipes such as cèpes à la Bordelaise, cèpe frits and cèpe aux tomatoes. In Italy porcini risotto is a traditional autumn dish.
Beside the sensational taste the porcini has many health benefits: such as it produces a variety of organic compounds with a diverse spectrum of biological activity, including the steroid derivative ergostherol, a sugar binding protein, antiviral compounds, antioxidants, and phytochelatins, which give the organism resistance to toxic heavy metals. Porcini were thought to have anti-cancer properties according to Hungarian research conducted in the 1950s, but later investigations in the United States did not support this.
Porcini with parsnip and parsley purée
Ingredients: 1 1/2 ounces porcini mushrooms, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 garlic cloves, minced, 1/2 cup dry white wine, 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, 1 cup chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth, 1 cup beef stock or canned beef broth, 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature, 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
for the parsnip purée: medium sized parsnips and parsley, salt and pepper, 200 ml cream, 1 teaspoon of thyme or 2 sprigs, 1 clove garlic, olive oil
Methods: Wash porcini. Cut them vertical into three slices. Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Place the porcini slices into saucepan and add a bit of garlic to. Spice porcini with thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper to taste. Pour mushroom a bit of water or other liquid such as white wine. Let them cook about 10 minutes but not longer in order to remain them crispy. Then prepare parsnip and parsley purée.
Methods: Put parsnips in pot, season with salt and cover with water. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook until tender – the tip of a paring knife should easily go through without resistance, approximately 15 minutes.
In a medium saucepan place the cream, thyme sprigs and garlic clove over low heat and bring to a simmer.
Drain parsnips and reserve cooking liquid. Place parsnips in a food processor with butter, or extra-virgin olive oil and a couple of tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid. Begin to process and add strained heavy cream mixture. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and puree until very smooth. Serve porcini with parsnip purée and pour over some remained liquid.