Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hen of the Woods Mushrooms

My mom, dad, Peter and I were walking through the Division Street farmers market last Saturday, just with the intention of picking up a couple peppers and onions. But then my mom spotted this at the Nichols Farm tent:

A hen of the woods mushroom. That picture doesn't even do justice to how big it was. The mushroom man (complete with a mushroom pin on his flannel shirt) told us that hen of the woods mushrooms taste like veal, and that Charlie Trotter charges an extra $25 to put them on a steak. So we decided to try some and the mushroom man hacked off a chunk for us. He also told us to eat the whole thing, not just the petals.

I also learned (from the internet, not the mushroom man) that hen of the woods get their name because they look the feathers of a hen sitting on a nest. Their season is September and October. And they grow at the base of dead or dying oak trees, and sometimes maple trees. I'd like to know who the first person was that saw one growing on a dead tree and decided they should eat it.

Sadly we didn't get around to trying them while my parents were still in town (we were busy with a trip to A Tavola, a cooking class, and lots of football games), but I did get around to cooking them last night. I did something kind of similar to my chicken with chanterelles recipe, but a little simpler.

I chopped almost the whole thing up, except the end of the stem, and sauteed it in the pan I used to brown the chicken, along with a little butter, 1/4 cup chicken stock, salt and pepper. The whole thing took about 15 minutes.

Once the chicken was done I added the juices from the roasting pan (so don't add too much salt initially because this adds more), and served the mushrooms over the chicken. With a little parsley.

They really did have a richer taste than most mushrooms. Very tender but firm enough to keep their shape, and perfect with just the simple sauce of butter and chicken stock.

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