September 2014's Featured Mushroom
Boletus variipes: an Oak Habitat King Bolete
There is a complex of mushrooms in North America identified as King Boletes. The oak habitat Boletus variipes is one of these cousins of the King Bolete, Boletus edulis whose normal habitat is with conifers. Boletus edulis is actually the name of a European mushroom. Whether the American King Bolete is the same species or not is a question we must leave to the DNA analysts. At least one laboratory mycologist, J.P. Xu of McMaster University in Hamilton, is working on this complex. Fortunately, all of the members of the King Bolete complex have basically the same flavor as the European King Bolete (porcini to Italians, steinpilz to Germans, ceps to Frenchmen, byelii greeb to Russians, borowik to Poles, and penny buns to the mycophobic English).
B. variipes is a close equivalent of the true king Bolete tasting almost exactly like the King Bolete. One can use any King Bolete recipe for these mushrooms. Like King Boletes, the flavor of the B. variipes is concentrated by drying. Unfortunately B. variipes is not really common in S.E. Michigan though once I did come across a grove of oaks with enough B. variipes to make 1 ½ quarts when dried.
The nearly flat, tan to grayish tan to a darker brown cap of B. variipes is 2” to 6” across. The stem, which is usually paler than the cap, is 3” to 6”tall and ¾ to 2” wide and is usually reticulated with ;a white pattern though sometimes with a brown pattern especially near the top of the stem. The pores are white to greenish-yellow and the spore print is olive brown. The taste and odor are pleasant. The white flesh is very firm.
In his cookbook, the Complete Mushrooom, Antonio Carlucci gives these recipes for Porcinis: braised porcini, chicken casserole with porcini and Leccinum aurantium, clams with porcini, cream of porcini soup, extravaganza of game and fungi, fried seafood and mushrooms, mushroom lasagna, morel and porcini risotto mushroom vol-au-vents, pappardelle with porcini, and veal chops with porcini. The variety of recipes illustrates the many uses of these mushrooms. They have a strong, nutty flavor that goes well in many types of dishes.