It’s been an ideal year for mushrooms in Virginia and West Virginia. It’s been rainy and unseasonably warm. The result of which is loads of wild mushrooms — all types — flourishing in our undisturbed forests.
My friends Charlie and Stephen — Logan’s best friends — went on a little expedition to Charlie’s secret foraging place in West Virginia this past weekend. Charlie considers it a spiritual expedition and he approaches this space with awe and respect. He’ll often fast before a trek — to sharpen his ambition as much as to sharpen his eyes.
They went out on a Sunday and Monday knowing conditions were favorable. They tramped through the undergrowth in wild, ever-expanding circles. The thick forest floor absorbed the sound of their heavy footsteps. Occasionally, the sound of a branch falling, bird calling or their own heavy breath breaking the silence.
It was an epic weekend. They collected almost 40 pounds of porcini. Small, round-bellied ones in creamy white-brown. Big, water-heavy ones with brown caps, flecked with golden pine needles. Boxes and boxes full. A holy harvest and a gift from the forest.
I am very lucky that Charlie gifted us some larger caps that he couldn’t sell to restaurants. We tried to pay him, really we did. But he insisted, as Logan and I have been helping him out with his business on the strategy and design side.
So, to honor this most generous gift I think it’s important to share my go-to mushroom method. I was given a gift. So here’s a gift for you all!
But you know, omnivores occasionally enjoy a fabulous and expensive piece of meat. Not regularly. But, say, for a holiday or anniversary or birthday.
I deem it necessary to celebrate the joys of life through the finer things. Particularly through sensual things, like taste and touch and smell. And porcini mushrooms happen to be one of the more excellent things you can put in your mouth.
And it serves as a killer centerpiece for a special occasion. Move over, turkey / honey ham / t-bone steak. Boletus edulis is here to take over the table!
So this recipe is dedicated to foragers looking for badass ways to prep porcini earned through sweat and bravery. And to those of us willing to invest in a celebratory experience for the senses, for whatever reason!
It’s really simple, fast and effective!
First you slice the mushrooms. Then you rub a mineral-rich sea salt into the cut sides and set those aside for a bit. The salt will cause miniature divots in the meat of the mushroom as it draws water out.
If you’re one to salt eggplant before roasting or frying, this method is pretty familiar!
Once salted, you dry-fry the mushrooms. Then add ghee or coconut oil and fry until browned.
Then you douse the mushrooms in a miso sauce (just miso, apple cider vinegar, garlic and water). Cook until the sauce browns a bit.
And serve HOT!
The result is a buttery, intensely savory, salty-nutty-sweet-crispy-umami flavor bomb. I personally think every bite tastes a little bit different. That is, the stem has different flavor qualities than the cap.
I personally treat these like steak. We even jokingly call these “P-bone steaks” (like “T-bone”). So I would serve them with roasted potatoes and a crisp, leafy salad.
If you don’t have or can’t find porcini…
Hey hi! That’s most of us!
This method works for cooking all mushrooms! Isn’t that dandy? Indeedly do it is!
My favorite common mushroom to use with this method is king oyster mushrooms! They’re thick, chewy, savory and meaty. They’re a lot like scallops, in texture and flavor. I generally buy them directly from mushroom cultivators or from specialty/gourmet grocers.
My second-favorite common cultivated mushroom to use with this method is lions mane. But all common, meaty mushrooms do well by this process. Portobello is the most commonly known, and works well.
You don’t need to salt delicate mushrooms — like morels, chanterelles, black trumpet and oyster mushrooms — before frying. I typically dry fry delicate mushrooms, then fry in oil until crispy and add salt. Occasionally I’ll add a tablespoon of sauerkraut brine or pickle brine to the frying mushrooms. Although the miso sauce is a welcome addition to just about any mushroom.
I hope you enjoy this method! xoxo