When we walk into the majority of supermarkets, what type of mushrooms are typically starring at us from the produce section? White button. Due to the cultivation process, the white caps possess a higher water content than the more exotic varieties. Though cooking with spices and herbs can aid in flavoring the "bland" mushrooms, another solution exists in using dried mushrooms.
You know... the pre-packaged, hard-as-a-rock, little lumps of coal?
When used correctly, these exotic little shrooms actually transform into flavorful morsels of meaty-mushrooms.
Dried mushrooms on the other hand have a shelf life of about one year. When guests drop by unexpectedly, you will always have something on hand in order to cook, if need be. When you purchase a quality dried wild mushroom, you will notice that the size and condition are more consistent in nature. In addition, dried mushrooms are generally less expensive than their fresh, exotic counterparts. Bonus.
Sometimes chefs will reconstitute dried mushrooms, then cook them with fresh mushrooms. Reason? In order to create a deeper, more intense flavor from the mushrooms. It also extends the yield (saving on cost). In terms or moral mushrooms, I prefer using the dried version over the fresh. Why? The drying process has a tendency to create an almost pungent smoky flavor, as opposed to that of the fresh morels.
Instead of reconstituting the dried mushrooms in water, as many recipes suggest, I tend to opt for either red wine, chicken stock or even bourbon/whiskey. You may also use white wine, Madeira, Marsala or beef/vegetable broth.
How to rehydrate dried mushrooms?
1 shallot - chopped fine
2 garlic cloves - chop and mince
Rosemary, thyme - fresh herbs
Pinch of cayenne pepper and salt
1 cup liquid (wine/stock/hard alcohol)
1/2 cup of dried mushrooms
In a medium sauce pan, combine all the ingredients, except for the dried mushrooms. Bring to a boil, then add the dried mushrooms. Turn the heat off and cover. Leave for 30 minutes in order for the dried wild mushrooms to absorb the flavored poaching liquid. After 30 minutes, remove the mushrooms and use accordingly. With the remaining liquid, you may place back on a high heat, until it reduces down to a brilliant mushroom jus.
So how does one take dried porcini mushrooms from a rock-hard state into a sophisticated, refined dish? C'est pas difficile (it is not difficult):
Pan seared mullet (skin-on) with cauliflower purée, mushroom coulis, shaved watermelon radish, rosemary-infused Greek yogurt and dried porcini mushrooms re-hydrated in a bourbon reduction.
"Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art" - Leonardo da Vinci