Monday, July 28, 2008

Fettucini with Porcini, Garlic & Parmesan

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
lemon zest
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.


valereee said...

You might try partially cooking before freezing. Prepare as for cooking, saute, then pack into recipe-size portions and freeze.

Langdon Cook said...

Val, I do that method with chanterelles, but I'd heard you can freeze the #1 porcini buttons on the grading scale (i.e. the buttons that are still hard, with concave caps). My next experiment will be broiling the porcini right out of the freezer. Stay tuned.

Laurie Constantino said...

When I cook frozen porcinis, I cook them at relatively high heat in small batches. The goal is to avoid all the moisture being released at one time which results in the mushrooms stewing rather than browning. That is what happens when there are too many in the pan at one time. What you want is for the water to evaporate as quickly as possible to help prevent sliminess.

ladyflyfsh said...

it's interesting to read your blog and results of this "experiment". I have some nice buttons and I'm wondering if it's worth a shot to freeze them or should they head to the dryer...that is, what I can't eat fresh now! I did make a nice raw salad of sliced porcini button with shavings of Parmesano Reggiano and a drizzle of a good extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh ground pepper.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Your best bet is to chop the mushrooms, then put them in a good saute pan dry over medium-high heat. Shake the pan a lot and dry-cook the 'shrooms until they release their water. This'll take about 5-8 minutes.

Then, use 'em as you would in the rest of the dish.

Anyway, that's my $0.02.

Langdon Cook said...

Laurie: I'm with you.

Ladyfish: As we all know, fresh boletes and dry boletes are two entirely different critters, especially in the kitchen. I've got plenty of dried from years past, so my goal is to find a method that enables me to use porcini in recipes that call for fresh, regardless of season. Of course, sliced raw in a salad will always be out of the question except with the most primo just-picked specimens.

Hal: Lacking a cleaver, I'm afraid chopping up the frozen porcini right out of the freezer is a trip to the ER waiting to happen...

So far I've been pleased with Experiment Two, and Experiment Three looks promising. Will elaborate soon...

Bill Jones said...

I have great success with frozen porcini by partially defrosting (soft enough to cut, but still firm). Defrosting collapses the cell structure and allows natural sugars to escape.Cooking partially frozen allow the water to evaporate, leaving the sugars behind to caramelize and become delicious.