How to cook up your Chicken + Hen of the Woods ūüôÉūüćĄūüĆ≤

A Gourmet Foray in the midwest -

For those of you in the northeast or midwest, you may have heard that Maitake season is upon us!!  Maitake mushrooms grow wild around the base of oak trees and other hardwoods in the autumn. They can be found mostly in the northeastern United States, but also show up throughout North America, Europe, and Asia as long as the climate supports them. 
Knowing this, I made it my mission to get out of the city and scout them during my stop through Chicago. I was able to rally a few mushroom-curious friends who were down to hunt for hen with me. The three of us packed some empty bags for a hopeful foray, a few snacks to avoid the hangries, and my friend's very nice camera (please admire Alex's beautiful photography with internal ooos's and ah's). All that in tow, we headed north of Chicago for about 25 minutes to a local woods I had been shown by an expert mycophile the year prior (shout out of gratitude to Bruch, if you're reading this!)
It took us a minute to adjust our eyes to spot fruitings - the first hour or so was mostly dried Turkey Tail, some LBMs, and a few unknown bracket mushrooms.  Just as we were losing hope, sure enough we stumbled on a healthy-sized Maitake at the base of a beautiful oak tree!
This was all we needed to fuel our stoke.  We foraged the hen, tucked her in my bag and moved on, immediately captivated by a herd of 8-10 deer and a few bucks (pretty magical in itself).  We turned our eyes from the path briefly to watch them prance away and as luck would have it, our eyes caught that unmistakable bright orange beauty, perched on a log 100 feet away. 
My companions had never see this mushroom in the wild, so the excitement was real.  Pleased at the success of having found ourselves dinner, we carefully foraged the Laetiporous and packed it for the trek home.
Winner winner!



Now for the cookin' -

For the Maitake (Hen of the Woods):

Turns out Maitake mushrooms are one of the easiest mushrooms to cook! The most laborious part is just making sure you wash them thoroughly to get the dirt and any crawlers out (ours was a little soiled up). Also - be sure to wash them right before you cook them so they don’t get mushy. 

The Maitake has a white base that is a little tough (it is the piece of the mushroom that grows into the ground), so go ahead and cut that part off and dispose OR freeze it and use it in a mushroom stock later if you'd like.

All you’re going to do is sauté these mushrooms in some olive oil (or butter- vegan butter works too!) and salt and pepper. They are truly so flavorful, they don’t need anything else. If I do add them to a dish, I simply garnish with them or add them to dishes like pasta or risotto.

Ingredients with measurements:

- 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegan butter (or regular butter)  

- Salt and pepper to taste

  1. To prepare the mushrooms, heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat and add the olive oil or butter.
  2. Add the sliced mushrooms and saut√©, stirring occasionally, until they have a deep golden brown color, about 10‚Äď15 minutes or until achieved desired texture.
  3. Let cool a little (but still warm) and serve!

For the Laetiporus (Chicken of the Woods) - 

As with the maitake, be sure to¬†wash the mushroom thoroughly so it's clean and free of forest residue. Then begin to tear strips along grain (or cut if you prefer),¬†discarding any tough parts that are no longer "meaty" or ‚Äújuicy.‚ÄĚ ¬†

Ingredients with measurements:

-1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegan butter (or regular butter)

-Salt and pepper to taste

  1. To prepare the mushrooms, heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat and add the olive oil or butter.
  2. Add the pieces of chicken and lightly sauté for 1-2 minutes on lower heat.
  3. Cover to keep juicy and cook another few minutes until tender but still juicy. They should be a vibrant reddish-orange color. 
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

You can enjoy these as is (they're so good on their own) OR use in recipes like pasta dishes, risottos, sandwiches, soups, etc!  

 All photography shot by Alex Kropp


For those of you inspired to go out to look for Hen / forage your own food - good luck, mush love, and happy foraging!

xo, Fungal Mandi

Written by MńĀlama Mushrooms Hawaii Admin

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