This all began when Trix Render of Willow River Gallery and Restaurant asked if I would like a large Hen of the Woods mushroom. Trix is both an extraordinary chef and talented painter. Her restaurant, tastefully decorated with paintings and art work, is one of the most civilized dining establishments in Honesdale; comfortable and just reeking of European ambiance 😀 Of course I said yes, as I would to an offer of any mushroom. I’d never heard of hen of the woods nor eaten it before but I was excited.
The mushrooms grow at the base of trees in the forest and are also known as sheep’s head, ram’s head and maitake in Japan. I must say I was vaguely intimidated, especially after talking to Phillip, Trix’s fellow chef, who thought that my idea of oven roasting the mushroom would dry it out too much; we really wrangled over that! Having roasted mushrooms many times before and detesting overcooked mushrooms, I just couldn’t believe that the maitake mushroom would be any different. Still, Phillip is a chef and I, although stubborn, am not. Stubbornly, I decided to roast a small portion of the mushroom as a test.
I gently shook off as much dirt and debris as the mushroom was willing to release, carefully rinsed it in cold water with a spray nozzle, then left it to drain upside down until mostly dry. I lined a small roasting pan with aluminum foil, sprayed the foil with olive oil Pam, cut off the tops of 2 large un-husked cloves of garlic and added them to the pan. I then seasoned the mushroom with salt and pepper, liberally sprayed it with oil, added it to the pan, tucking the garlic cloves underneath, then roasted it in a 450 F oven for about 20 minutes, turning once.
My husband and I ate the mushroom as a snack, pulling off the crispy, juicy, long stemmed “fans” of mushrooms with our fingers.
My inspiration for the next step in the “what to do with this big mushroom” adventure came from both Olives for Dinner, a vegan site, and my neighbor and friend Anne Lynch who rhapsodized about her love for mushroom soup. Inspired but by no means mind snatched, I immediately went rogue, making a tasty Japanese stock with dashi, white miso paste and soy sauce. I picked the mushroom fans from about two thirds of the large piece added them to the stock, simmering for about 5 minutes. I then brought the stock back to the boil and added some lo mein noodles (could have been any asian noodle), cooking until they were tender. I ladled the noodles and mushrooms into 2 large bowls, sprinkled with slice scallions and we ate the soup immediately. So good!
I froze the other third of the roasted mushroom for addition to other Asian dishes I’m most likely to make. Thank you Trix and Anne!