A Brief Affair With Hen of the Woods

Autumn had been hanging on for its dear life on the East Coast—a major grace for me since I had spent what could have been the end of foraging season in Finland instead.

Before I left for Finland that fall I hadn’t found a maitake—or Hen of the Woods—to speak of. It wasn’t until a week after my return, while wandering a cemetery studying trees with the New York Mycological Society, that I landed my first. She was small and solid but in great condition. I cut her from the base of the oak and took her home.

Two nights later, my mushroom-skeptical friend was in town again. “We’ll go out to eat,” he said. “Or,” I countered, “I could cook.”

“We’ll go out to eat,” he said again. “Unless there are mushrooms…”

He was in a chair at the dining table faster than I could finish saying, “why yes, I do have some mushrooms.”

Dinner was simple: A celeriac puree borrowed from my days in Finland topped with oven-roasted maitake. I forgot to take pictures, but it was so good I plan to recreate the dish again soon. Assuming I get more Hens.

Roasted Pureed Celery Root

Oven-Roasted Young Maitake
Maitake mushrooms, cleaned
Scant olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 F.
Slice maitake into steaks, keeping the ruffled crown attached to the base where possible.
Toss maitake in olive oil to lightly coat. Sprinkle with salt. Spread mushrooms on a sheet pan.
Roast mushrooms until they begin to brown. You want them slightly crisp, but not potato chip crunchy.
Serve mushrooms atop celeriac puree. Drizzle with pan drippings in there are any.


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