Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Polish Forest Mushrooms: Podgrzybek

Hand picked by local villagers in the forests of western Poland, these prized mushrooms are sorted, dried, and carefully hung with about twenty to thirty mushroom heads bound together onto a single thread. Naturally collected and supported by traditional ancient methods of harvesting and drying, these highly regarded wild organic forest grown mushrooms are found growing in natural pine forests in remote areas of Poland for only four weeks of the year, emerging and picked on early mornings throughout the forests of the Podlaskie region of Poland.

Wild Polish Forst Mushrooms

These dried wild forest mushrooms, or Podgrzybek Brunatny, are a distinct Boletus mushroom with a unique earthy taste and flavour. During the winter and at other times when fresh mushrooms aren't available, these dried jewels of the forest are made into soups and sauces. The flavour has been described as nutty and slightly meaty, with a smooth, creamy texture, and a distinctive aroma reminiscent of sourdough. They can be sautéed with butter, ground into pasta, used in soups and many other dishes.

I received these amazing Polish dried Podgrzybek Brunatny mushrooms 
this past Christmas from my friend Paul

In France, they're used in recipes such as cèpes à la Bordelaise, cèpe frits and cèpe aux tomates. Porcini risotto, a traditional Italian autumn dish, is another aromatic use for the dried funghi, but a dried mushroom filling is one of the quintessential flavors for stuffing Polish pierogi. The filling is also used for Uszka, better known as "little ears" because of their shape, they're the traditional dumpling served in beet soup for traditional Christmas Eve dinners.

Uszka, or 'little ears' because of their shape, in clear red Borsch - a traditional 
Polish Christmas Eve dish

Italian chef and restaurateur Antonio Carluccio has described the dried boletus as representing "the wild mushroom par excellence", and hails it as the most rewarding of all funghi in the kitchen for its taste and versatility. Carluccio, known as "the mushroom man," has been gathering, cooking, and devising recipes for mushrooms for more than sixty years. In the Complete Mushroom Book, this award-winning Italian chef brings more than 150 recipes that show off the strengths and subtleties of the many available varieties of wild forest funghi.

Antonio Carluccio

Carluccio's mushroom lovers opus

Mushrooms contribute tremendous flavor without adding significant fat or calories. For those who want to join in the thrill of collecting their own mushrooms, Antonio Carluccio's Complete Mushroom Book includes an illustrated field guide for North America. The section provides detailed descriptions of all the major species to help distinguish between edible wild mushrooms and their poisonous, look-alike relatives. Fruity, buttery, nutty, spicy, mushrooms can offer a surprising spectrum of flavors, and can enrich your cooking with an earthy sensuality unlike anything else, whether it be the dried Polish Podgrzybek Brunatny, Italian porcini or fresh Ontario wild mushrooms — these are indeed the jewels of the forest, and the crowning glory in many cuisines across the globe.

Traditional Polish Wild Mushroom Soup 
Serves 8-10

6 ounces dried Polish mushrooms 
12 large dried shiitake mushrooms
3 cups beef stock or broth
5 medium ribs of celery, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
5 carrots, chopped
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup orzo
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp flour
1 cup sour cream
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the dried mushrooms, then place in 2 cups of cold water, and soak for at least 4 hours or overnight.

In a large pot, bring stock to a simmer. Add celery, onions, and carrots. Strain the dried mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid. Add strained soaking liquid to soup. Chop hydrated mushrooms into 1/4-inch pieces and add to soup. Then add the sliced cremini mushrooms.

Cover and cook the soup until vegetables are tender, about an hour. 

Bring the soup to a boil, then stirring constantly, add the orzo. Reduce the heat to a gentle boil, and, stirring occasionally to prevent pasta from sticking, cook until orzo is cooked through, another 6 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, make a roux: Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, and cook, stirring constantly until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove 1 cup broth from soup, and add the roux, whisking constantly until it's slightly thickened and free of lumps. Stir thickened liquid into soup. Add chopped parsley and dill.
Finish soup with sour cream: Add 1/4 cup thickened soup to sour cream and whisk until smooth. Add sour cream to soup, whisking constantly until it is well incorporated, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pierogi with Dried Mushrooms & Onion
Makes 45-60 pierogi

2 large eggs
5 tbsp sour cream
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup chicken broth
4 cups all-purpose flour

Mushroom Filling:
4 oz dried Polish mushrooms, soaked in warm water until hydrated
2 tbsp butter
1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 tbsp finely chopped dill
1 large beaten egg
Salt and pepper

Carefully lift the mushrooms from the soaking liquid so as not to disturb the grit at the bottom of the bowl. Chop mushrooms very finely and set aside. Heat butter in a large skillet. Add onion and sauté 5 minutes or until translucent.

Add chopped mushrooms to onions and cook 10 minutes or until liquid has evaporated and mixture begins to sizzle.

Transfer onion-mushroom mixture to a large bowl and add the breadcrumbs, parsley, dill and egg. Season to taste with salt and pepper and mix together forming a firm paste. Set aside and let cool completely. Mushroom filling will keep, refrigerated, for up to 24 hours.

For the dough:
In a large bowl, combine eggs, sour cream oil, salt and chicken broth until well mixed. Add flour and knead by hand or in a stand mixer until the dough is smooth. Wrap with plastic and let rest at least 10 minutes.

On a floured work surface, knead the dough until smooth. Roll the dough to a 1/8" thickness using a rolling pin or pasta machine. Using a cookie cutter or drinking glass, cut out 3-inch circles. Pierogi are usually semi-circular, but they can be any shape you like. Place a spoonful of the filling onto each of the dough rounds, then fold the dough over and press the edges together to create semi-circles, sealing and crimping with your fingers or a fork. If dough is dry, moisten edges with egg wash - 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water - before pressing edges together. To freeze the pierogi, arrange them raw on a parchment-lined baking sheet, making sure the ends don't touch. Place in freezer then bag them once solid.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Drop the pierogi in a few at a time, and cook for 6-7 minutes or until they float to the surface. Remove from the pot using a slotted spoon and repeat with the remaining pierogi.

Heat oil in a fry pan. Add the pierogi and fry for two minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. Serve with sour cream and chives or dill on the side. "Jedzcie, pijcie i popuszczajcie pasa" - that is "eat, drink and loosen your belt!"

Crema di Funghi Porcini
Serves 4

1 lb 2 oz field mushrooms, 1 oz dried porcini or polish mushrooms
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
4 cups beef stock
4 tbsp double cream
Salt and pepper to taste

2 slices white bread
A nut of butter

12 dried or fresh morels
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives

If you are using fresh ceps, clean them and cut them into pieces. Cook the onion in the oil for 3-4 minutes, then add the ceps and saute them for 6-7 minutes. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.

If you are not using fresh ceps, soak the dried mushrooms in lukewarm water for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fry the field mushrooms together with the onion and then add the soaked porcini with their water, strained for impurities, and stock. Simmer for about half an hour.

To finish either method, take the pan from the heat and blend the contents. Then return the soup to the pan, add the cream, salt and pepper and heat slowly. Remove from the heat before it boils, and serve hot.

To make croutons, simply cut the bread into little cubes and fry in the butter until crisp and golden.

Jamie Oliver's Pappardelle with Wild Polish Mushrooms
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Jamie Oliver

3 ounces dried Polish mushrooms
3 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 small dried red chillies, very finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 pound pappardelle pasta
a small handful of grated Parmesan cheese
1 handfully of fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2 ounces unsalted butter

Rehydrate the mushrooms overnight in red wine. Whole caps will need slicing but often you can find dried borowiki mushrooms ready sliced prior to drying.

Put the olive oil in a very hot frying pan and add the mushrooms. Let them fry fast, tossing once or twice, then add the garlic and chilli with a pinch of salt. It's very important to season mushrooms lightly, as a little really brings out the flavour. Continue to fry fast for 4-5 minutes, tossing regularly. Then turn the heat off and squeeze in the lemon juice. Toss and season to taste.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Add to the mushrooms, with the Parmesan, parsley and butter. Toss gently, coating the pasta with the mushrooms. Serve, scraping out all of the last bits of mushroom from the pan, and sprinkle with a little extra parsley and Parmesan.