The Cèpe - The French Porcini Mushroom. The Cepe in French Cuisine. The Mushrooms Of France III.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Cèpes, Porcinis, can grow quite large
Photograph courtesy of Maja Dumat


The Cèpe de Pins, the pine mushroom.
Photograph courtesy of jacme31


The Cèpe (Cepe) or Porcini is one of the tastiest wild mushrooms. France is blessed with many pine, chestnut, and oak forests, and those are the trees that nearly all wild mushrooms like. Of the above, the Cèpe's favorite is pine forests. In season fresh French Cèpes, as Porcinis elsewhere will be on many menus. That is the time to enjoy the many ways that French chefs offer Cèpes. 
The cepe, the porcini mushroom, on French Menus:
Côte de Bœuf avec des Cèpes de Bordeaux et des Frites Maison A bone-in rib-eye steak, served with the French Cepes de Bordeaux mushrooms from the pine forests near Bordeaux. According to the menu, alongside the steak are the restaurant's uniquely made French fries. Traditional French fries are fried in beef fat with some areas using duck fat. 
Entrecôte Bordelaise aux Cèpes de Bordeaux –A rib steak (entrecote) served with that wonderful  Bordelaise sauce accompanied by the French cèpes de Bordeaux.

Filet de Féra du Léman aux Cèpes et Risotto – The broad whitefish from Lac Léman, (Lake Geneva) served with cepes and a risotto. The broad whitefish is a member of the salmon and trout family, and so it may be served grilled, fried, poached or smoked.

Cèpe Dusted Scallops
Photograph courtesy of Pan Pacific

Gros Ravioli de Foie Gras et Cèpes de Nos Ramasseurs – Large ravioli stuffed with fattened duck's liver and cèpe mushrooms collected by our own mushroom gatherers. N.B.: Many restaurants have special agreements with ramasseurs, wild herb and mushrooms gatherers.  Throughout the year, these gatherers will bring to the restaurant wild mushrooms and wild herbs including wild garlic . They may also bring wild fruit and vegetables, including wild asparagus and wild berries.

Les Noisettes de Chevreuil aux Cèpes.- Small cuts from the ribs of a  Roe Deer prepared with cèpes.
Noix de Ris d'Agneau Cuit aux Senteurs de Cèpes d'Été et Noix de St Jacques. -  The center cut of lamb sweetbreads flavored with summer cèpes and the meat of the King Scallop. The cèpe season varies with the weather and the region. Rain or damp conditions followed by lots of sun is ideal cepe weather. Fresh cèpes may be on the menu beginning from mid-June through early December. Nevertheless, if the weather is right do not be surprised when they are on the menu at an earlier or later date,
Salade de Cèpes aux Copeaux de Foie Gras, Jambon de Pays Cèpe salad with shavings of fattened duck's liver served with locally cured ham.

Saumoneau de Fontaine Sauce Suprème aux Cèpes - Young salmon (smolt) from the river served with a sauce supreme and cepe mushrooms. (Sauce Supreme is a white sauce usually made with veal or chicken stock, butter and crème fraiche; here the stock will probably be changed to a fumet, a fish stock).
Velouté de Cèpes - A velvety cèpe mushroom soup.

Cèpe in a pine forest
Photograph courtesy of Maxime THIBAULT (Public domain).

The Cèpe des Pins, the pine porcini.
Cèpe des Pins or the Cèpe de Bordeaux – This cèpe is found in the pine forests close to Bordeaux.  In France, it is the best-loved member of the porcini family. The Cèpe des Pins has a cap that can, occasionally,  grow to 30 cms (12") in diameter.  While the cepe is not unique to Bordeaux, the locals consider it their own. Those picked in the pine forests close to Bordeaux are called the Cèpe de Bordeaux, the Bordeaux mushroom.  Those picked in other areas of France are known as the Cèpe des Pins, the pine porcini. It matters not that these are the same mushroom; do not argue with tradition. It also does not matter that these mushrooms grow wherever there are pine forests. When the Cèpe des Pins or Cèpe de Bordeaux is on the menu go for it.   The  Cèpe des Pins, the pine porcini,  are difficult to see in the forest; you can practically step on them without realizing that a beautiful mushroom is hiding in the pine needles.
All the cèpe mushrooms are tasty, so much so that many commercial mushroom products contain this mushroom as a flavor component.  Porcini mushrooms retain nearly all of their taste when dried, and when later reconstituted are still stars. For that reason, cèpes, porcini, are one of the wild mushrooms that many French chefs use when fresh cepes are not available. 

Soupe de Châtaignes au Lard, Copeaux de Cèpes'
Chestnut soup with bacon and porcini mushrooms
From Alain Ducasse's  book: Nature: Simple, Healthy and Good
Photograph courtesy of Shou-Hui Wang

Foraging for wild mushrooms
If you are traveling in France and go foraging for wild mushrooms be careful.  Do not cook or eat a single one of your finds until an expert has checked your collection. Most French villages and all towns have mushroom experts, and volunteers who are trained by the government.  Pharmacists have a list of the nearest mycologist. The name is the same in French.  To ask for a mushroom expert ask for a “mycologue”.  Their services are free. N.B.: Many mushrooms have close look-alikes that are poisonous.  
The Cèpe mushroom in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan – cep, buixó), (Dutch - gewoon eekhoorntjesbrood), (German – steinpilz, herrenpilz, edelpilz), (Italian - porcini), (Spanish –rodellón, cep, hongo, boleto blanco).
Other mushrooms posts:
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Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman 

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1 comment:

  1. Anyway you serve fresh wild mushrooms it is always a treat. Love them!


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