Fresh Porcini Salad with Shaved Fennel and Parmesan Cheese
The aroma of thinly sliced fresh porcini is best described as ultimate essence of forest mushroom. When combined with extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan cheese of the highest quality, it’s a rare treat and one of my favorite salads. Only make this if you have top-grade fresh porcini (Boletus edulis). The caps and pores should be firm and tight, the stem should be pure white when cut open, and there should be no evidence of insect damage. Both the fennel and porcini need to be cut paper thin. While this can be done with a very sharp knife, it’s best done using a mandoline, a kitchen tool that cuts super-thin, even slices. Mandolines need not be expensive. I use my cheap plastic mandoline regularly while its expensive, harder-to-clean, big brother remains on the shelf. Soaking fennel in salted water prevents it from discoloring in the air and seasons it, bringing out fennel’s flavor.
1 large fennel bulb or 2 small bulbs
2 Tbsp. salt
4 fresh porcini, top-grade
Chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano or other good quality parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, best quality
Freshly ground black pepper
Fill a medium-sized mixing bowl with water. Mix in 2 Tbsp. salt.
Cut stalks off fennel bulb(s) and reserve for another use (such as Pasta with Wild Mushroom and Clam Sauce). Using vegetable peeler or sharp knife, remove darkened or damaged portions of fennel. Cut fennel into quarters, then cut out and discard central core. Cut fennel quarters crosswise into paper-thin slices, preferably using a mandoline. Put fennel slices in bowl of salted water immediately after they’re sliced, stirring to make sure fennel slices are distributed throughout salted water and aren’t clumped together.
Brush or wipe dirt from porcini mushrooms and trim off damaged portions. Cut mushrooms into paper-thin slices, preferably using a mandoline.
Using a vegetable peeler or very sharp knife, shave thin pieces off chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Adding olive oil in slow, steady stream, whisk olive oil into lemon juice. Season with freshly ground black pepper and very light sprinkling of salt.
Drain fennel and pat dry with dish towel. Toss fennel with dressing and divide between four plates. Arrange porcini slices over fennel. Top with shaved parmesan and freshly ground black pepper. If any dressing is left in the bowl, drizzle it over cheese. Serve immediately.