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Sunday, September 26, 2010

What's On The Menu: Porcini Mushrooms

Porcini, little piglet, as he grows in the woods.

I copy for you below the mouth-watering menu of a special, six-course, all Porcini mushroom dinner prepared last Friday evening at Ristorante Marconi, in Crodo.

Chef Denis Croce at Marconi knows that it's time to take advantage of this year's harvest of Porcini mushrooms, and you should as well. For the next few weeks, as you stroll around Stresa checking menus and choosing where that evening's dinner will be, keep the Porcini in your thoughts. Look for it posted on daily or seasonal menus, handwritten as a chef's special, and ask your server if the chef is preparing anything with them that day.

Porcini means little piglet in Italian. But it is considered the king of edible mushrooms. It has a meaty texture, a rich, nutty taste, and a white color that doesn't change when cut. Although they grow in many parts of the world, in a symbiotic relatonship with the trees around them, it is generally known that they grow best with chestnut trees, and perhaps for this, the abundance of chestnuts in Italy as well, the porcini here are considered among the top.

Did you know that Porcini harvesters in Italy are now required to carry a permit and are restricted to a quota of 2 kilo per week? In addition, they must carry the harvested mushrooms in open straw or wicker baskets, this allowing the spores to fall to the ground as they go. All this to ensure that Porcini do not risk extinction through over-harvesting. If you drive through wooded areas in the autumn you'll most likely see some mushroom gatherers. It's also not unusual at all to see people selling them along the sides of the road, as I've seen in the foothills of the Alps in Piemonte.

The correct way to gather, in an open-weave basket.


But to be safe, because it is still not recommended to eat any mushrooms unless one is quite sure that it is not toxic, perhaps let the chefs do the choosing and cooking and you the enjoying.

Like Denis at Marconi per esempio... I've added some translations of his creations. Porcini season is now. Eat them now while you can, not dried later or bottled in oil. Look for special dishes like these, and enjoy one of Italy's autumn gifts.


serate a degustazione
PROSSIMA SERATA A DEGUSTAZIONE
24 SETTEMBRE 2010
FUNGHI PORCINI
Salmerino marinato e leggermente affumicato al timo
con insalatina di funghi porcini
(This is char, marinated and lightly blackened, seasoned with thyme and served with a small salad of Porcini.)
Ricotta cotto al forno dell’az. Agr. Bernardini Massimo
con pancetta croccante e funghi porcini
(Ricotta cheese, oven-baked, with crunchy pancetta and Porcini)
Gnocchi di polenta profumati al rosmarino
con stracotto d’asino e crema di porcini
(Polenta gnocchi with rosemary, well-done donkey, and a Porcini cream sauce)
Risotto ai funghi porcini in crosta di lardo
(Porcini risotto in a lard crust)
Coscia di faraona farcita con funghi porcini trifolati
(Thigh of guinea hen, stuffed with Porcini cooked in oil, garlic and parsley)
Tiramis├╣ autunnale della valle Antigorio
Caff├ę
Costo della serata Vino compreso € 40.00


Yes, you read correctly, the price of this meal at Marconi was only 40 euro, including wine, caffe and dessert. Ristorante Marconi, in Crodo, is about 30 minutes north of Stresa, in a good location for those coming to or from the Valle Vigezzo, or traveling between Italy and Switzerland by auto via the Sempione pass.


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