One of the region's natural riches, mushrooms are used in many of Umbria's local recipes. You can find dishes featuring mushrooms as one of the ingredients in large and small restaurants, as well as in country houses. Traditional shops selling local produce are a good place to buy mushrooms.
The jewel of Umbrian mushrooms is the Boletus edulis, known as Porcino
. Boletus edulis, is sometime called ôKing boleteö.
PORCINO UMBRO - [cooking]
Cleaning Fresh Boletes
A sparing use of water is important. Try not to allow the water to enter the spore underside of the mushroom since this tends to absorb a good deal. Remove any dark parts of the mushroom. Brush off the caps of Boletus and Leccinum. Peel off the slimy tops of Suillus. If old, gently separate the spongy material from below the cap, using your finger or a knife, and peel off carefully. Check the underside of the cap for worm holes. If there are many, discard the cap. If only a few exist, use the parts where they do not appear.
Cooking Fresh Boletes
These mushrooms can be slippery. To reduce this quality, quickly fry the slices in oil or butter. The simplest method of preparation is to sautÚ them in olive oil and butter, then add a rich brown sauce and serve as a side dish with steak, broiled chicken, or fish. Alternatively you can layer the fried mushrooms over rice, or baked or mashed potatoes. Another way to quickly prepare boletes is to cut them into thick slices and dip them into beaten up whole eggs. Then dust in seasoned bread crumbs and deep-fry.
Botanically identical species of mushrooms from different localities present considerable differences in size, smell, and taste. This has led researchers to conclude that subtle chemical and physical differences occur in mushrooms of the same species growing in different habitats.
Boletes decompose quickly. They should be either eaten or preserved as soon as they are brought home.
In the Italy, the most common method of preserving boletes is to dry them. Cut them into lengthwise slices no less than 1/2 inch thick from cap to base including the stems.
Boletes may be frozen and stored after being sliced into l/4-inch slices and placed in a freezer bag. They will keep well for 6 months.
Pickled boletes can be served as eats at cocktail parties.
Cooking with Dried Boletes
As a rule, 3 ounces of dried boletes will equal 1 pound of rehydrated mushrooms. Much variation is found in chefs' opinions as to how long to soak them. On average they are soaked for about l5 minutes in warm water. Heat hastens the rehydration process. The length of time depends on how thick the slices are. Squeeze the mushrooms dry but be sure to save the liquid in the bowl to use for flavouring in whatever dish you are preparing.
Dried boletes have a deep, rich taste that dominates soups and sauces for polentas and pastas. When you cook with dried Boletus edulis your kitchen will be redolent with its powerful fragrance. The essence of the mushroom persists in the cooking pot even after the pot has been washed and dried.
Cut the mushrooms according to your desired size after soaking. In general, the larger the pieces, the more flavor. Some chefs prefer to sautÚ them quickly in olive oil and butter before adding them to the dish they are preparing. Add the remaining soaking liquid to your food preparation by carefully pouring off the concentrated essence from the top, discarding any residual matter such as sand or soil at the bottom of the container.
Commercially Dried Boletes
Dried bulk or bagged boletes command high prices in the marketplace. The imported Italian boletes (porcini) are usually dark in appearance, and their smell is intense and aromatic. Home-dried preparations do not have the same odor and are lighter in color. Old-timers claim that dried mushrooms develop a deeper, more robust aroma if kept for two or three years.
When you shop for dried boletes, inspect them carefully to be certain there are no gilled caps present. Sometimes mushrooms of lesser quality are mixed with or substituted for Boletus edulis. Bagged products may also contain broken and granulated brittle pieces of fungi which will not reconstitute well and have little taste. Purchase only solid, clean, thickly sliced mushrooms. Imported Polish boletes seem to require long soaking periods. They must be soaked overnight before cooking.