One chef, one ingredient: porcini mushrooms by Thibault Sombardier
Thibault Sombardier was appointed as head chef at the Michelin-starred Antoine restaurant in Paris at the start of 2013. The young chef trained under some of the top names in contemporary French gastronomy, including Yannick Alléno, Alain Dutournier and Marc Meneau. He chose to highlight cèpes, known in English by their Italian name, porcini. The fragrant mushrooms are one of the most sought-after fungi in France, behind the truffle.
What led you to choose this ingredient? What is your best kitchen memory associated with this ingredient?
Thibault Sombardier: I chose porcini mushrooms because they are extremely flavorful, and I am fond of their shape and appearance. It's an ingredient that I find particularly satisfying to cook with.My top memory associated with porcini mushrooms is of a hike in the Morvan area in Burgundy. The weather conditions had been favorable to the growth of mushrooms. I was able to gather some lovely porcini mushrooms, which I simply sautéed over a camping stove. An ideal experience for a food lover!
When is this ingredient in season?
T.S: Porcini mushrooms come into season in the fall. The best time to gather them [in France] is in October.
What is the best way to prepare this ingredient? Can you share a recipe?
T.S: The best way to cook porcini mushrooms is en papillote, for an exceptional aroma, or in a skillet, sautéing them over high heat with hazelnut oil. My recipe: Porcini mushrooms with bone marrow en papillote. Place cleaned and halved medium-sized porcini mushrooms on a sheet of aluminum foil. Season with sea salt and a turn of the pepper mill. Add a crushed garlic clove, a large piece of beef marrow, a sprig of thyme, a bay leaf, and a pat of butter. Close the packet by folding the edges of the foil over the contents, and place in the oven at 200°C (400°F) for 7 to 8 minutes.
What other products can be combined with porcini mushrooms to delight and surprise the taste buds?
T.S: To really astonish my guests, I like to combine porcini mushrooms with lobster. I sauté the mushrooms in hazelnut oil and then deglaze the pan with lobster bouillon. The resulting dish is a surprising and very flavorful combination.
What are the most common mistakes made when preparing this ingredient?
T.S: The mistake to avoid at all costs is putting porcini mushrooms under water when cleaning them. Instead, wipe them gently with a wet brush and dry using a soft towel before cooking. In the pan, always be sure to coat them, with butter for example, to ensure that they do not dry out.
How do you offer this ingredient on your current menu?
T.S: In the autumn, I often offer sautéed porcini mushrooms with the suggested dishes of the day, as an accompaniment to fish or meats.
What wine (or other alcohol) is best married with this ingredient?
T.S: A 2004 Beaumes-de-venise [a red wine from the French Rhone region]