I defrosted my first batch of frozen porcini today. As regular readers will recall, just before leaving town for a summer retreat in the Rockies, FOTL took in a haul of fresh spring porcini from the North Cascades, most of it consisting of prime buttons just emerging from the duff. In the past I've dried all my excess porcini, but this time I vacuum-sealed and froze the best specimens.
Well, the jury is still mostly out on the freezer technique, but this is what I've learned so far. Thawed porcini is nothing like fresh. (No kidding!) I left the mushrooms on paper towels at room temperature. In the picture at left you can see hints of frost on them and even the textured impression of the bag. Almost immediately the porcini started sweating, getting progressively slimier. My hopes were not high. (Next time I might leave them in their sealed bag and defrost overnight in the fridge.)
Despite the puddles of water forming around my precious porcini, they succumbed to the knife rather nicely (though not as crisply as fresh) and the interiors were still happily white for the most part. When it came time to cook the porcini, I decided to raise the heat and saute them longer than I would have otherwise, just to make sure excesss moisture was cooked out and the mushrooms got a crisp edge. This raised a few problems that required kitchen improvisation. The high stove temp meant I needed to de-glaze, so I added a quick pour of vermouth (white wine would have been a better choice); lacking a lemon, I squeezed in some lime for a kick of citrus (again, not optimum). A pat of butter near the end added more opportunity for de-glazing. At this point I added the fettucini to the pan and cut the heat.
The verdict on the first phase of the Great Frozen Porcini Test? Extra cooking helped render the previously frozen porcini into a state that—if not as flavorful—at least superficially resembled the outcome of cooked fresh. Also, because spring porcini is milder than other variants later in the season, I might choose the fall fungi in the future for this subtle dish.
1/8 cup olive oil
2 cups diced porcini
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp butter
9 oz fresh fettucini
1/4 cup grated parmesan
sprig of fresh thyme, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
Saute porcini in oil until lightly browned; meanwhile add pasta to pot of boiling water. Add garlic to mushrooms and cook another minute or two. De-glaze with white wine or vermouth. Melt in butter, then stir in cooked pasta along with grated parmesan, lemon zest, and spices. Serves 2.