As a child I was frequently summoned to accompany my aunt when she foraged for mushrooms. I carried the basket while she scouted. The aromas, flavors and pleasures of mushrooms—from foraging to cooking—slowly seeped into my soul and has remained with me for life. Even today, it's an exhilarating experience to meander in the autumn forest and find clusters of coral-like Hen-of-the- Woods mushrooms nestled on the musty, humid ground.
This is a great recipe on its own, but if you can add a few ounces of grated black truffle, this dish will take you straight to Norcia, the Umbrian city of the norcino, or the Italian black truffle. The rich earth of Umbria not only produces the norcino but also Sagrantino di Montefalco, the only wine I would want to drink with this earthy dish.
Wine recommendations: Earth and fruit meet and create gustatory magic if you open a bottle of Arnaldo Caprai 1997 Sagrantino di Montefalco, a burly red with aromas ranging from blackberry jam to pine tar. Or you can try Sagrantino, Nebbiolo or Barbera noble reds from Piedmont. Look for Villa Sparina's Monferrato Barbera, Sottimano's Barbaresco and Jean Franco Scaglielano's Le Grive.