Photo by Jamie Harmon/uberphoto.com
At twilight on the way to the Faculty Art Opening Monday evening, I spotted these two large fungi under some old longleaf pines. "Porcini," I said to myself, salivating, planning meals in my head, "Big ones!" I picked them quickly and headed off with my bounty, catching odd glances from students who must have thought I'd lost my mind (or that I'd hoped these might help me do so). I bore them proudly, however, arriving at the opening, entertaining numerous glances and, from friends, questions about what the hell I held and what the hell was I going to do with them. I patiently explained that these were porcini, worth about $40 a pound on the fresh market, and that I was going to eat them. They asked whether I might poison myself, and I explained that I knew which were poison, which weren't, and I wouldn't risk my life for a taste of amanita phalloides, the death cap, or any other liver killers. I enjoyed the art (more about that later, I'm awaiting another photo), talking to friends, chatting with my students afterward, and then taking these home for verification and an immediate place on top of my pizza. I Berenstain Beared these babies (If they look like porcini, if the smell like porcini . . . ). However, I noticed a certain amount of staining and the pore tubes, upon closer inspection under a lamp, were browner than normal. I decided to give it the definitive test--the taste test--so I sliced the smaller of the two up and sauteed a sliver in butter. It wasn't bitter, which was good, but it wasn't porcini, either. It was a Tylopilus, a boletus edulis lookalike. I put a little on my pizza anyway, and while it didn't detract, it didn't add much flavor and its texture was a bit grainy. No, this wasn't the choice dish I had expected, and I ended up discarding the rest of this bland date.
Note: reports on mushrooms that I found and/or cooked represent my personal experiences, and in no way should be taken as recommendations for readers. This is not a guidebook. Eat wild mushrooms at your peril.