The portly porcini is indisputably the King of Italian mushrooms. The essence of autumn in Italy is distilled in its earthy character. Every fall the woodsy scent of the forest calls Italian mushrooms lovers to search for this flavorful fungus with the firm, fleshy texture that goes so well with everything from pasta to robust stews and sauces or brushed with olive oil and grilled over a wood fire.
I love porcini but they are difficult to find in the US and here lies my dilemma. To satisfy my craving for these stout, big capped mushrooms from the chestnut woods of Italy I have turned to the springtime woods and moist river bottoms of the American Midwest, home to the common yellow morel mushroom. With its pine-cone like appearance and spongy, honeycomb texture morels are about as far from a porcini as you can get. Yet they share a rich early flavor reminiscent of the season that favors them. There are a variety of ways to prepare morels and more imaginative cooks take advantage of their rich, meaty flavor. A culinary dilemma whose consequences can be nothing but delicious.