Of the extraordinary variety of fresh ingredients that have begun to appear on American markets, none is more wonderful than boletus edulis, the wild mushrooms that Italians call porcini Some are native to American woods— I have had porcini from California, Washington state, Georgia, Vermont; some are imported from Italy. A warning: Do not pick mushrooms in the woods on your own until you have learned to distinguish clearly the edulis, which means edible, species from the poisonous; buy them only from a knowledgeable vendor.
No fresh mushroom, and no other wild mushroom, morels and chanterelles included, remotely approaches the bosky flavor and satin texture of porcini. And no cooking method liberates so much of that flavor as grilling or sautéing with olive oil and garlic. Whether on the grill or in the skillet, porcini must cook slowly until tender throughout. High heat stuns the flavor and withers the texture. Good olive oil is indispensable. Butter is the doom of porcini: You might as well be cooking champignons if you are going to cook them in butter.
In the recipe you will find chestnut leaves listed as an optional ingredient. I don’t know if they are ever found in America. But if you should be cooking in Europe, try them. It is the Genoese way of doing it, and it enhances the mushrooms with an aroma most congenial.
If you are grilling over coals: Season the mushrooms with the olive oil, chopped garlic and parsley, salt, and grindings of pepper and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes, depending on the thickness of the caps and the heat of the coals. About half a minute before removing the mushrooms from the fire, moisten the chestnut leaves (if you have them) with olive oil and place them over the mushrooms. Serve the mushrooms on top of the leaves.
Fresh porcini can be just as delicious when done in a skillet. Use the same ingredients and follow the cleaning procedure of the above recipe. Coat the bottom of the skillet lightly with olive oil, put in the mushrooms with the caps’ round side facing up, and turn on the heat to medium low. After 5 to 7 minutes, turn the mushrooms over and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a little while you will find that the mushrooms release liquid. Turn up the fire for as long as it takes to evaporate that liquid. Then season the mushrooms with the remaining olive oil, the chopped garlic, and the chopped parsley and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. If you have the chestnut leaves, moisten them with olive oil and place them over the mushrooms for half a minute while they finish cooking. Serve the mushrooms piping hot on top of the leaves.
© 1986 Marcella Hazan estate. All rights reserved.