Monday, September 14, 2009

The Power of Powder; Porcini Powder That Is.

Porcini powder is one of the most significant weapons in your flavor arsenal. But before I get into the advantages of using said powder, let me first explain exactly what it is.

The Porcini Mushrooms (Boletus Edulis) wear many caps (ha ha). For those "pothunters" (Yes, that is what a mushroom hunter is called) in the United States, it is referred to as "The King Bolete" while in England it is called the "Penny Bun". In France it is known as Cèpe de Bordeaux (Cèpe for short). In Croatia, Vrganj. In Denmark, either Karl Johan or spiselig rørhat. In the Netherlands, "eekhoorntjesbrood" which translates as "little squirrels' bread". In Germany it is the "Steinpilz", meaning "stone mushroom", while in Austria it is the "Herrenpilz" being the "gentleman's mushroom".

So many names but all referring to the same delicious "Edible Mushroom" which is what Boletus Edulis means in Latin. (Boletus = Mushroom and Edulis = Eatable or Edible). Oh, and in case you were curious, Porcini means "piglets" in Italian.

Their deep woodsy, nutty flavor is woefully unmatched by the common White Button (champignon) which is a natural mutation of the Cremini (Brown Button, Italian Brown) or Portobello (older cremini). The supply of fresh porcini is a little limited though, due to their resistance to cultivation. As a result, all porcini available on the market have been wild harvested from conifer forests in Europe and North America.

Fear not though, for they are more readily available in dried form. And while they are delicious when soaked in warm water for 15 minutes and added to your favorite Risotto alla Funghi recipe along with the soaking liquid, they have even more strange and mystical powers lurking under the surface. I speak of their abilities in "powder" form. For here is where they can truly shine.

I usually make my own porcini powder, simply because it is expensive, and I am a single guy who can't go through a 12 oz container of Porcini powder in less than 4 months. Yes, once ground, the dried mushrooms will begin loosing flavor power. So it is best to simply grind what you can use in a couple months. I purchase a couple of .5 oz package of dried porcini at the store. This gives me enough powder to make about 6-8 dishes. Well, this is unless I am cooking something particularly mushroom-centric.

In powder form, porcini can do several things for you.....
  • Add tremendous amounts of concentrated flavor to a dish without a lot of "bulk" (since they are dehydrated a little goes along way)
  • Allow you to sneak in all the flavor and none of the texture, for those who are not fond of "mushrooms".
  • They will also help thicken a sauce by simple virtue of their being dehydrated and soaking up water.
Yes, Porcini powder totally rocks when it comes to usefulness in the kitchen. The actual applications are many. What have I actually used it for...?

  • I have used it in Risotto alla Funghi for a flavor boost, when all I have had available were button mushrooms.
  • Added it to other Savory Mushroom Dishes to increase flavor
  • Added to meat rubs for an extra kick, especially chicken and pork.
  • Thickened Arrabbiata sauce for Stuffed Lumaconi.
  • Thickened pan sauces.
  • Added it to sautéing vegetables for those who "Hate the texture of Mushrooms".
  • Tossed it with bread crumbs before sprinkling on Mac & Cheese.
  • Pureed it with butternut squash to make an awesome pizza sauce.
  • Sprinkled on just about anything as a finishing touch.
The uses are so many I can only scratch the surface. So let me tell you how I make my own porcini powder. Find some dried porcini mushrooms. I have 2 sources, though one is more expensive than the other. This is where it pays to know your mushrooms. The package I buy simply states "Dried Wild White Mushrooms".

To me, that would normally mean wild "White Button" mushrooms or something. But if you look close, it says "100% dried boletus edulis". Yay!!! And the .5 oz pkg was only $1.50. I normally have to pay $2.89 at Cost Plus World Market (Although that is still much less expensive than most places).

Simply place them in a grinding mechanism. Be it a coffee grinder, a mini food processor or, like me, a magic bullet (cause this just seems to work best for me, my coffee grinder doesn't work so well).

Grind them, shaking the container a little, for about 30 seconds and voile!!

Let the dust in the container settle for about 3 minutes before opening or you will be gassed by porcini dust. Depending on how well your grinding mechanism is working, you may need to run the powder through a fine sieve and re-grind any large bits. Then simply move to a container and store. Yes, I even brush out the "blender". This is precious stuff here. ;)

How much too use in a recipe...? Honestly, that is gonna depend on what you are using it for, and how much flavor or thickening power you want. I throw a mere 2 tsp into my Arrabbiata Sauce. I use 1 1/2 TB in a risotto for 4 people. 1 TB in a meat rub. That is the beauty of making your own powder, a 2 dollar investment, for experimentation purposes, instead of a 4 oz bottle 21 bucks. YIKES!!! LOL

So I say to you, grab some dehydrated Porcini/Boletus Edulis/King Boletes and experience Powder Power!!!!


FYI - I should state this just in case. If you attempt this with dried Morels, please do not sprinkle the uncooked powder on foods. It is safe to do this with Porcini, however Morels should always be cooked, due to a particular protein in the cell walls that should be broken down my heat, before consuming or they may cause gastric upset. Grazie. (Thank you)

Porcini on Foodista


Ciao Chow Linda said...

great idea and I never knew this about morels. I was planning to grind those too, until I read this post.

Patti T. said...

MMMMMmmmm, I bet that would bring mac and cheese to a whole nother level! Thanks for sharing all your cooking secrets with us, this really seems likes something inspirational.

Unknown said...

wow....great tip! and as usual lots of interesting info :)

Dajana said...

I don't know why, but I've never ever bought dry "vrganji". I should really try making this powder, because we love mushroom taste in food.
P.s. "piglets" are "porcellini", and "porcini" is an adjective

Spryte said...

That is so cool!!!

summicron said...

I do this with dried shiitake mushrooms all the time. Where I live, it's hard to find porcini. I use powdered shiitake in a lot of stuff. It's one my essential seasoning ingredients, my MSG.

Shane T. Wingerd said...

summicron - What an excellent idea! I don't know why I didn't think about doing this with Shiitake as well. Thanks for the tip. :)

Tanguera said...

Where can I buy thee white mushroom you showed above?

Shane T. Wingerd said...

Tanguera - I was purchasing them at a small local market in San Diego called North Park Produce. I have been living in Portland Oregon for the last 5 years so I am not even sure if that little market still exists in San Diego.

Tina Ball said...

I have a Creamy Mushroom soup that calls for 1/2oz of dried porcini mushrooms. I bought it already powdered. How much is 1/2oz dried in powdered form? Thank you in advance for your help.