Falsetti: Take advantage of York County’s fungal connections
York County is mycophile country. I know, because I saw it at the movies, and the box office never lies.
The movie in question is “Fantastic Fungi.” It played to sold-out audiences at York City’s Small Star Art House for three weeks running. More than a mushroom documentary, “Fantastic Fungi” explores the existential role of mushrooms in sustaining, healing and contributing to the regeneration of life on earth. After watching the film’s spellbinding time-lapse photography, you will never look at a mushroom the same way again.
To celebrate fungal life in all its glory, I humbly offer a mushroom soup to start off the new year. If your only experience with mushroom soup comes in a red and white can, be prepared for a surprise. There is no cream to weigh down and dilute the mushroom flavor and no rubbery semi-vegetal bits.
The soup gets its umami-rich depth and dark brown color from dried porcini mushrooms. Porcini, or King Boletes, are prized in both Italian and French cuisines. If you are a mushroom forager, you will have to take a trip to the northern tier of the state to find them. Fortunately, dried porcini are available in major supermarkets in the produce section.
On a final note, porcini mushrooms are gathered in the wild, not cultivated. The dried ones contain grit, so don’t omit the washing and straining step in the recipe.
Fantastic Mushroom Soup
1 ounce dried porcini, about 1 cup
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 to 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, trimmed and sliced (shiitake are a favorite of mine)
Salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Put the dried porcini in a saucepan with 5 cups water; bring to a boil, cover, turn the heat to low and simmer about 10 minutes, or until tender.
Meanwhile, pour the oil into a skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. When the oil is hot, add the sliced fresh mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until they give up their liquid and begin to brown, about 10 minutes.
When the dried porcini are tender, use a slotted spoon and remove them from the liquid. Rinse under cold water, and roughly chop. Add them to the skillet along with garlic and tomatoes.
When all the fresh mushrooms are browned and the tomatoes are juicy, about 3 minutes later, turn off the heat.
Strain the mushroom soaking liquid through a strainer lined with cheesecloth, napkin or towel. Rinse the saucepan and return the liquid to it. Add the mushroom-tomato mixture and heat through. Taste for salt, and adjust the seasoning. Add parsley and serve.
— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at email@example.com.