Porcini Power

In 2014, my friend Eve gave me access to her wholesale account at a fancy foods Indo-European importer. The company supplies high-end restaurants, grocery stores, caterers, and wineries with a treasure chest of all things gourmet. Their catalog roared with mouthwatering descriptions and photographs of foods I had never seen or heard of before. Five pages of chocolate and four pages of salt blew me away! Full of glee, I went berserk and ordered about twenty things, among them smoked sea salt, aged sherry vinegar, pomegranate molasses, and porcini mushroom powder. I felt like a culinary wizard who had a collection of magical potions that transformed recipes into enchanting masterpieces. That’s when my cooking went from ordinary to extraordinary and I coined the words “flavor bursts”, my term for concentrated flavorings that elevate cooking to five-star restaurant status.

One of my favorite flavor bursts is porcini mushroom powder. The powder adds intense savory and earthy flavor of unparalleled depth to culinary creations. Have you ever taken a bite of something and wondered “Wow, what’s in this”? Porcini definitely adds that full, mysterious, and unidentifiable flavor. I add a heaping teaspoon or two to soups, stews, pasta sauces, barley, lentils, and marinades. I cook rice in broth along with some porcini powder and suddenly that simple staple ingredient becomes a luxurious and aromatic dish fit for a king or a queen. Porcini powder explodes with the umami flavor – a taste that some describe as “delicious meaty savory”.

I make a lovely creamy porcini mushroom gravy, perfect for drizzling over meats, mashed potatoes, and pasta. I even put it on cauliflower the other day. Porcini gravy turns almost any food into an instant comfort food. Yum!

Porcini Mushroom Gravy

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon porcini powder
Salt and pepper to taste

In a sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the flour. Add the porcini powder and cook until it bubbles and turns a deep golden color. Add the broth and milk and whisk constantly until it thickens. You may need to add more liquid. Easy!

Porcini powder seems to last indefinitely since I store it in a swing-top-bale jar – a jar with a metal clamp and a rubber gasket. My Italian porcini powder is seven years old and still remarkably potent. A one pound package that costs less than thirty dollars and lasts for years and years – I’d say that goes in the category of “lots of cluck for your buck”. Some say porcini mushrooms are the king of wild mushrooms and I definitely agree. Try some! It’s fun!