FUNGHI AL FUNGHETTO (Braised mushrooms)

This recipe is for mushrooms (funghi) and for this I have used King mushrooms.

FUNGHI AL FUNGHETTO is not quite Sicilian. Al funghetto is a cooking method which probably originated in Liguria and Toscana, but which is now embraced by all of Italy and not just used for mushrooms.  In Italian, the use of al, allo and alla constructions (e.g. allo scoglio, alla caprese), is the equivalent of the French use of à la (e.g à la parisienne). It means cooked in the style of , and in this case, as cooking mushrooms (funghetto). For example, if I was cooking zucchini or eggplants al funghetto, the vegetables would be cooked in the same way as cooking mushrooms – thinly sliced, sautéed in extra virgin olive oil and flavoured with parsley, garlic (and sometimes a small quantity of tomato).

Usually if cooking al funghetto, garlic cloves are added to the hot oil and then removed, or if you do not mind eating it, chopped garlic is added at the same time as the mushrooms, but because King mushrooms require a longer cooking time, the garlic burns, therefore I sauté the mushrooms before adding the garlic.

In Liguria (the Genova region) as well as parsley and garlic, oregano is commonly used (wild oregano is preferred and is called cornabugia) whereas in Toscana (around Firenze) the oregano is usually replaced with a little catmint (nepitella).

As you can see in the photo, I have also used bay leaves and on different occasions I have used sage (salvia) – to impart a meaty flavour to the brawny mushrooms.

If my relatives were cooking funghi al funghetto in Sicily they would most likely add a little chopped tomato as well as the parsley and garlic (and perhaps oregano), but no sage, no catnip because they are not herbs that are commonly used in Sicily.

King mushrooms are readily available in Melbourne. Many are imported from Asia and tend to be sold very cheaply. Although they are more expensive, I always buy those that are grown locally – food miles and supporting local growers are important factors – and the mushrooms are not likely to have been sprayed with a preservative.

I like these mushrooms because they are very large and meaty.They retain their firm textured and you can eat the whole fungus. I presented them with bread (need I say good sourdough or pasta dura?) as an antipasto but they could also be a contorno (accompanying side dish) or a pasta sauce (lasagne – great!)

I estimated ½  – ¾ mushroom per person. In this recipe I have used the Ligurian choice of herb, oregano, but you can replace it with one of the other herbs mentioned above.

INGREDIENTS

mushrooms, 4 large

garlic (either 2 -3 cloves or the fresh Australian garlic which I buy in bunches- use the green and the bulb)

parsley, ½ cup, finely chopped

oregano, ½ teaspoon of dry, or if using fresh, a few sprigs
extra virgin olive oil, 5-6 tablespoons( King mushrooms absorb quite a bit)
salt  and freshly ground black pepper to taste

white wine and stock or water, ½ cup of each

PROCESSES

Clean the mushrooms with a damp cloth, slice each one into 4-5 even slices.

Heat some of the extra virgin olive oil, add the mushrooms and on medium heat sauté each side until golden.  Sprinkle each with salt and add more oil as necessary. Remove the mushrooms.

Add a little more of the oil, add the garlic, parsley and oregano (or sage).  Use high heat and stir frequently so that they do not burn or stick.

Add wine and deglaze the pan, add water, mushrooms and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook over low heat for about 10minutes. The mushrooms will have softened slightly and absorbed some of the flavours.

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