If you know how to cook with the simple
white button mushroom found so commonly in the supermarket, you know how to cook
with any other kind of mushroom, whether it's cultivated, dried or wild.
Many cultivated mushrooms also can be dried. These versions have a buttery
richness and can easily be incorporated into everyday cooking simply by soaking
them first (reconstituting, as this process is called) and then using them as
you would fresh mushrooms.
Dried mushrooms can be expensive, but their flavor is intense and a little bit
goes a long way.
Mother Nature still has the upper hand with farmers when it comes to growing
chanterelles, morels, porcini (known also as cepes) and other wild mushrooms.
They are difficult to cultivate. Nearly all are hand picked in the wild (where,
of course, they are free) and then brought to markets (where they are generally
Porcini Mushroom and Pork Ragout
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 C. hot water
1/4 lb. bacon, cut into 1-inch dice
3 T. olive oil
2 lbs. boneless pork loin, cut into 2-inch dice
1 C. chopped onion
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 t. dried thyme
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ground white pepper
1/2 C. chicken broth
1/2 C. reserved mushroom liquid
1/3 C. balsamic vinegar
1 C. half-and-half
In a medium bowl, cover the mushrooms with the hot water and set aside to soak
for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a stock pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the bacon
and fry until crisp. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels; set
Remove all but 1 tablespoon of drippings from the pot. Add 1 tablespoon of the
oil to the bacon drippings, increase the heat to high, add the pork and cook
until browned on all sides. Transfer the pork and any juices to a dish; set
Place a coffee filter or a piece of cheesecloth in a strainer. Drain the
mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Gently squeeze the mushrooms to remove any
remaining moisture, blot with paper towels and coarsely chop. Set aside.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil along with the onion and garlic to the pot,
reduce the heat to medium-low and saute for 5 minutes. Be careful not to brown
the garlic. Add the thyme, salt and pepper and saute for 1 minute. Add the stock
or broth, 1/2 cup of the reserved strained mushroom-soaking liquid and the
vinegar. Add the reserved pork (with accumulated juices), bacon and mushrooms,
increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the
heat to low, cover and gently simmer for 1 hour and 45 minutes, until the meat
is very tender.
In a small bowl, gradually add 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid to the
half-and-half. Transfer the mixture to the pot and cook just until heated
through, about 5 minutes.