It’s fall, which means it’s Porcini season! It wasn’t so long ago that buying dried porcini’s seemed unattainably expensive, but a few fruitful seasons have really brought the price down to earth. Last week, I was wandering around my local market when I spotted some fresh porcini’s. Their bulbous caps called out to me as if begging to be chopped and tossed into my sauté pan.
Happy to oblige, I bagged up a few and threw them in the cart along with a bag of farro. Like most grains, farro soaks up all the flavors that you cook it with, but unlike most grains, it isn’t just a flavor sponge. With toothsome kernels and a nutty, almost sweet flavor, it brings its own admirable qualities to the party. It’s no wonder that humans have been eating some variation of farro for over 7000 years!
Back at home, I opened up the brown paper bag to prep the Porcini’s. This was my first time using fresh porcinis and I have to admit, I wasn’t prepared for the lump of funk that lurched forth from the bag. They have the same savory aroma of the dried variety, only funkier.
They’re a bit of a pain to clean because rather than having gills, the underside of the cap is like a sponge, which will soak up water if you try and wash them. That’s why porcinis need to be cleaned with a damp towel, which can take some time, given all the grit they are covered with.
I was starting to wonder if it was worth all the trouble, but once they hit the sauté pan and start sizzling, my mouth started watering like Pavlov’s dog. Together with the nutty farro, it’s a heavenly pairing that tastes like fall.
Farro and Porcini Mushrooms (farro con funghi)
1 cup farro
2 small fresh porcini mushrooms (about 5 ounces)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 leaves from 1 sprig of thyme, minced
1 3/4 cups good chicken or vegetable stock
Thoroughly wash the faro and remove any unwanted debris (rocks, stems, etc), drain and set aside. To prepare the porcinis, get a paper towel slightly damp and wring out any extra water. Starting from the middle of the cap, wipe it outwards towards the edge of the cap, removing all the grit and debris. Wipe the stalk from the top to the bottom, then gently brush off any debris from the pores under the cap. Roughly chop half the mushrooms, then slice the other half.
Heat a pot over medium high heat then add the olive oil, shallots and thyme. Fry until the shallots are translucent and fragrant. Add roughly chopped porcinis to the pot and fry until browned and very fragrant. Add the farro and stir to coat with oil. Add the stock, then cover and turn down the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the faro is tender and most of the moisture is gone (about 30 minutes).
When the farro is almost done, heat a frying pan until hot. Add a tablespoon of olive oil, the fry the mushrooms. Salt and pepper to taste, then add the parsley.
Serve the faro topped with the sautéed porcini mushrooms.