Peaches and Cream . . . and Porcini

Last week, I wrote about flavor pairings that are so remarkable they seem like matches made in heaven. The memory of them may even linger for years. I vividly remember one such flavor pairing.

Awhile back, I toured the Piedmont region of Italy. Parmesan Reggianno (the original Parmesan cheese), balsamic vinegar, and prosciutto (dry cured Italian ham) originated there. For a couple of days, I visited the small town of Parma, the Parmesan cheese capitol of the world. Parmesan Reggianno is unlike any other Parmesan cheese. It’s crumbly with little crystals in it and has a rich, nutty, and savory flavor because it’s aged for one to two years.

One evening, I attended a dinner party hosted by a local chef. A few minutes after I was seated at the long table, another guest told me that the dinner was a special occasion. It was? Yes, we were about to experience a rare event. Peaches and porcini mushrooms were being harvested at the same time. Normally, their growing seasons do not overlap. But this year perfect environmental conditions brought them together. This rare and precious treat was soon to arrive on my plate. I was so excited!

The chef prepared a lovely pasta dish and the earthy flavor of the porcinis mingled perfectly with the sweet peaches. The next morning the produce market overflowed with piles of peaches, porcini, and black truffles, a beautiful sight that I could now truly understand and appreciate.  

This vivid memory stayed with me until . . . my friend Julie just happened to stop by with a big bag of tree ripened peaches. Now I wanted to go play in the kitchen! I didn’t have porcini mushrooms, but I had porcini powder. In a moment of inspiration, I made a quick pasta sauce that was culinary ecstasy. Porcini powder is a handy umami-packed flavor to include in your pantry; it’s available on Amazon. I imagine frozen peaches would work just fine in this dish.

First, heat two tablespoons of olive oil or butter in a skillet. Then sauté two shallots along with about a dozen sliced brown mushrooms until they are crispy on the edges. Add one cup vegetable or chicken broth and a tablespoon of porcini powder and simmer until reduced slightly, about ten minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add ¼ cup heavy cream. Simmer until thickened. Add a handful of sliced peaches and heat through. Toss the sauce with pasta (I used penne) and serve with grated Parmesan. The measurements are estimates only – trust your senses to know how much to add.

Who said that heaven is somewhere else? It’s here right now, in the divine flavor combination of peaches, cream, and porcini. Try it, you’ll like it!