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Hen of the Woods!...foraging for nature's Autumn bounty.

58 comments /
It is finally here...the Autumnal Equinox, Fall, Mabon, the changing of the guards (and I must say, I think these guards have the best uniforms), the first day of Autumn...my favorite season and I am beyond ready to give thanks for Summer's bounty and start foraging for comforts of the new season! I was blessed to receive a gorgeous Hen of the Woods mushroom a couple of days ago from my neighbors. Their family had gone out mushroom hunting and came back with 7...7!...bags of mondo specimens of this earthy, pungent, autumn mushroom! Hen of the Woods, also known as Maitake, Sheep's Head, Ram's Head or Chicken of the Woods, is a perennial mushroom. So, if you can remember where you found this beauty (probably at the base of a sturdy hardwood or pine tree) you can go back and collect another next year. Maitake have been used for Medicinal purposes in their native Japan and in China for many years "due to their ability to regulate blood pressure, glucose, insulin, and both serum and liver lipids, such as cholesterol, triglycerides, and phospholipids. Some think may also be useful for weight loss. They are also Maitake is rich in minerals (such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium), various vitamins (B2, D2 and Niacin), fibers and amino acids."* These mushrooms can grow very large...the one I have is almost a foot wide! I'm not sure how much it weighed because I'm a bad foodie without a scale but it was pretty heavy. Of course, some of that weight may have been contributed by all the little critters taking up residence in its many nooks & crannies. Ick. I am a nature-lover and all, but insects in all their creepy crawly glory, still give me the willies. I don't run screaming or anything, but I do get a good shiver. Needless to say, it is very important that you clean the Hen of the Woods well before using them. Fill up your sink, or an extra large bowl with warm water and salt. I halved the big mass and one half at a time, dunked it into the prepared water. This will get out the critters and debris that are trapped or hiding. Five minutes should be sufficient. While I'm doing this, I cut off the woody base and separate the mushroom a bit. You may have to flick some smaller bugs off with your finger or the tip of a paring knife. See the dirty, bug filled water you'll have when you're done. But trust me, it's well worth it!
Remove from the water after ~5 minutes and gently rub off any excess dirty that may be clinging. Now you have clean Hen of the Woods to do with what you will!And since I know that you want to know what I did with them....I made a perfect meal to celebrate Autumn...earthy and delicious!

Hen of the Woods w/ Chicken & Herbs
by girlichef

1 Tbs + 2 Tbs. Butter, divided

~1 lb. Chicken Thighs, boneless & skinless (or not)

Sea Salt

Black Pepper, freshly ground

2 small Onions, sliced thin

3-4 cloves Garlic, peeled & smashed

3 large handfuls (double-handed) Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, free of dirt & debris

few glugs White Wine

3-5 fresh Sage leaves

2 sprigs Rosemary

few sprigs fresh Thyme

1/2 c. Chicken Stock

Begin by slicing or chopping your Hen of the Woods into large pieces and set aside.Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high then drop in 1 Tbs. of butter and add your chicken thighs, seasoned w/ sea salt & pepper. Sauté until the first side is browned, then flip over. Once second side has begun to brown (they will not be cooked through), remove the chicken to a plate until you're ready to add it back in.
Drop your onion & garlic into the pan and begin to sauté them in the fat that the chicken thighs left in the skillet. Once they have begun to soften and turn golden, add in another Tbs...or two of butter. The mushrooms love to soak up liquid, so be sure to add enough. Drop in your prepared mushrooms.Stir everything around in the pan, and once the mushrooms have begun to soften and brown slightly, add your few glugs of white wine. Scrape up any fond that had developed on the bottom of the pan. Add your herbs to the pan, pour in your chicken stock and nestle your chicken thighs back into the mushroom mixture. Once the liquid has come to a good bubble, cover the pan and reduce heat to a low simmer for ~20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.Adjust seasoning to taste with more sea salt & black pepper. I served over egg noodles with some green beans on the side. Delicious, comforting, earthy, rustic...the perfect way to say welcome to Fall!!Are you wondering if I had any Hen of the Woods left? I mean that was a biggun, right! Yes, I definitely did. I decided to try my hand at preserving to see which methods I liked best. First, I scattered some on a sheet pan to freeze. I've read that you do not need to blanch or pre-treat Hen of the Woods as you do most other mushrooms, so I didn't....they froze up very nicely and I transferred them to freezer bags. We'll see what happens when I try to put them to use next time. I'll be sure to give you an update. I also have a batch in the dehydrator right now, but those won't be done for at least another day, so again...update to follow. And I'm going to give you fair warning....dehydrating them completely and totally stinks up the house. The kids are pretty unhappy about that right now. And I have to say, I'm not particularly enjoying it either, but it's looking like the end result will justify the means. I found some great tips on storing them here.
9/23/09~UPDATE!! This is my quart sized bag of dehydrated Hen of the Woods Mushrooms. So amazing how much water is in them...I started out with about the same amount that is on the sheet pan above for freezing and they dried down to this!! I can't wait to use them in something this way. I feel pretty cool to have dried my own mushrooms. ;) It worked so well!



*source: Wikipedia


Hen Of The Woods With Chicken and Herbs on Foodista
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UPDATE
11/2/10
I am revisiting this post for the Hearth and Soul Hop this week (vol. 21).

hearthandsoulgirlichef

58 comments

  1. If only I lived close to a wooded are. I can forage for some shrooms. You're lucky and you made a really good dish with your delicious findings too.

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  2. After reading the benefits of your mushroom find, I must say this is the healthiest recipe I've seen in a long time. We have tons of mushrooms in the woods around us, but I am NOT confident about picking them. I think I'll have to study my Alaska mushroom book more.

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  3. Such the adventurer! I could never in a million years hope to see one of these, but your recipe does sound delish. I'm ready for some cooler weather and you're much more likely to see that well before us down here. Hubs and I did yard work and it was so muggy today you'd never guess that fall was just a day away.

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  4. can there be anything more flavorful and hearty? This post is just great. Nice story--lovely pictures--a great recipe--of course :)

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  5. I've enjoyed reading the post, there's no way I wouldn't enjoy even more tasting that goodness.
    Yummy!

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  6. I went foraging for mushrooms a couple years ago in Colorado--such fun and they are so delicious when you eat them cooked up afterward. What a gorgeous dish--it is making my mouth water!

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  7. What interesting mushrooms. I've never seen them (although we have a plant called hens and chicks in our garden). You certainly turned them into a gorgeous dinner. Wow.
    Sam

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  8. Holy crap, you got that many maitake mushrooms?? It's like you got treasure! Even if I'm willing to pay top dollar, there is NOWHERE that I could buy them. Using butter - an awesome way to prepare them.

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  9. Fall is definitely my favorite season food-wise. It has the best produce, if you ask me. Thanks for all the info about these mushrooms - I would never have known they were so good for you! Your chicken dish totally put me in the fall spirit...so homey and hearty. Bugs make my skin crawl. I think I would need to bring these home to my dad and have him do the cleaning.

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  10. What a glorious bounty!
    I wish I knew how to identify mushrooms, I am sure there must be lots of good ones in the Ontario woods.
    Great dish, just perfect!

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  11. Wow - that looks good but I really wanted to compliment your writing. You are such a wit!

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  12. I am totally jealous. I love to forage and I adore mushrooms.

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  13. Fall is the best for outdoor everything...

    But, I find it hard to believe that after a dozen comments, no one took the time to ask...

    Did the hens end up tasting like chicken???

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  14. whoooooo hoooooo, one of my favorites, I went to the 'spots' about a week ago but they were not there yet...maybe they are now...I have put them on strings and hung them near windows and they dried fine without all the 'aroma'

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  15. What a bounty of information about the mushrooms and what a bounty you found in the woods.

    The chicken dish looks and sounds like it's packed full of flavor!

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  16. That 'shroom is wicked cool!!! I love what you did with it, too!

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  17. That is a lot of mushrooms!! It was interesting to hear about what you did with them. I'll admit that I'm not a mushroom lover by any means, but I was very interested in the process you went through in cleaning and dehydrating them. I agree with Joanne about the bugs and creepy crawlers. I don't think I could handle it, but you did a fab job!!

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  18. I'm afraid to pick my own mushrooms, but you've created a wonderful and healthy dish with your finds.
    Looks fantastic and I'm sure it's delicious.

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  19. Yummy sounding dish! Thanks for sharing all the great mushroom info with us too! :)

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  20. Palidor...Yes! I've been reading that everywhere. I really enjoy them that way, too :)

    Doggy...If only I had known...LOL. But, they're done now and the smell has vanished... ;)

    Dave...They did take on a bit of chicken taste since I cooked them with the chicken. But they are a very meaty and hearty 'shroom in their own rite! :D

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  21. What a fabulous find! How sweet of your neighbors to share! The chicken looks excellent - a perfect way to welcome in Fall.

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  22. Wow! I have never seen such a thing! I love mushrooms and cook with them quite often, I've just never heard of a Hen of the Woods mushroom. I guess they probably don't have any of those out here in Southern California!

    I love your chicken dish! It looks amazing.

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  23. You lucky girl! I'm so jealous, those mushrooms look gorgeous. Great use.

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  24. Your mushrooms look wonderful and I really like the dish you've made with them.

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  25. Great Post! I never heard of that type of mushroom... but I never met a mushroom I didn't like... the recipe sounds delicious too!

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  26. These mushrooms look extraordinary.

    I see you have a quote by Colette in your "Leave your comment" message... She's my fave French writer! I posted about her last week, you may want to check it out:
    http://mary-laure.blogspot.com/2009/09/learn-french-with-benjy.html

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  27. Great recipe! Mushrooms are good!!

    My mom and her husband go mushrooms hunting sometimes and I've had a chance to try some fun varieties. I'm not sure if I've tried this one. I really love lobster mushrooms. Have you tried those?

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  28. That is one crazy looking mushroom! Your creation looks delicious!!

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  29. ... well, I'm glad you enjoy them. :D

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  30. You are my second blog pal to be doing this mushroom foraging thing and I really want to get into it because I live in a highly forested area & I should be out there harvesting! I found a book on Amazon about foraging; I might have to treat myself earlier than Christmas.

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  31. I wish I loved mushrooms, love the smell, love to make them for my hubby, but can't stand the texture.

    Enjoyed your post though! :D

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  32. Look at all those beauties! I love mushroom hunting but since moving to New York I haven't done it. Growing up in Ohio we always looked for morels...my most favorite wild mushroom...yum!

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  33. I love fall, but I've never gone foraging for mushrooms... suddenly I feel like I've missed out on somthing really good! This chicken dish looks amazing buried in all those mushrooms! Yum!

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  34. How cool is THAT! I love mushrooms, but haven't experimented with many varieties. Sooo....what kind of wine goes will when Hen of the Woods (inquiring lushes want to know)LOL

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  35. That looks soooo good!!!

    Brightest Mabon Blessings!

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  36. i have a friend who is a mushroom maven and i want to see if she ever harvests anything like that - she does find (and share!) a lot of morelles
    i have the fondest memory of a roasted chicken dish with large mushrooms made for me by a dear friend in paris - your recipe reminds me of that one, amazing meal
    love how the whole family got into the outing!

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  37. I didn't realize you could clean them in water since it toughens up most mushrooms. I'd be icked uot by the bugs too. You're braver than I.

    But what a neat find.

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  38. Girli, you are just so danged groovy!

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  39. I've seen these mushrooms at the farmer's market but haven't been quite sure how to prepare them. This recipe looks fantastic. Thanks for the step by step instructions.

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  40. A wonderful dish to celebrate Autumn! The Hen of the Woods mushrooms sound excellent with chicken!

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  41. Everyone's already said this but ohhhhhh that looks woooooooonderful!

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  42. Mary-Laure...I will come read it soon!

    Ungourmet...I have, a few times and I think they are fabulous, too :D

    Coyote...definitely do it!!

    Dani...Chardonnay worked just fine for me ;P

    Spryte...and to you, my friend!

    Lady P...Someday I will have European stories to tell too...just you wait!!! ;)

    Monica...I know, that is what I initially thought,too when my neighbors told me to clean them like that. I was going to take a cloth and wipe them like usual...UNTIL I saw all...ALL...of the things crawling and slithering around in the nooks & crannies. That sealed the deal...water it was. But add salt and do it quickly. :D

    Katy...kickin' down the cobblestones...

    Cathy...you should give them a try :D

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  43. wow how cool is that local fresh mushrooms i would be too scared of eating poisonous ones by mistake!! love the chicken dish as well

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  44. Your dinner looks totally delicious and I love mushrooms, but the bugs would really creep me out. When I first started buying my veggies at farmer's markets, no one told me to blanch them in salt water. When I was cutting up my broccoli, a bunch of green worms started moving around. It totally grossed me out. I threw the broccoli away and couldn't eat it again for two years.

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  45. Girlichef, what a beautiful mushroom! I'd never heard of it before now. Living in the desert SW doesn't allow me to look and find such a beauty, but maybe I can find it online. I like that it helps with high blood pressure. Sadly, in addition to Fibro, I've got that too.

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  46. i just love cooking with new and different ingredients, it's so fun! this looks wonderful!

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  47. have to search every where for them hehe!! nice recipe. i shud try this ven i get hand of some of those woods ;) hehe

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  48. What an awesome and informative post. I read this one about three times, just taking in all those awesome pics!

    Also, I have an award for you over in my latest post for having such a kick ass and "Kreativ" blog lol..

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  49. I have mushrooms growing in my yard, that I just don't trust at all. I think I need a mushroom specialist to identify. The morels sometimes come out in the spring, but these are different.
    I think you'll be thrilled with your dried mushrooms, they'll have so much flavor when you use them.

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  50. Wow, what a mass of gorgeous shrooms. Love the chicken dish!

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  51. Gorgeous way to celebrate autumn. I need a neighbor who will forage for me!

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  52. Wow. All I can say is wow! You are so lucky! HEELLLLOOOO Autumn!

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  53. This is so great! I'll have to check and see if these can be found in Iowa. In May, I alway's get excited to go Morel mushroom hunting. So much fun!! Great recipe too!!!!

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  54. Autumn is my fave time of the year, too :) That's one crazy looking mushroom but darn good I bet!

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  55. Oh my, I love all types of mushrooms and this is definitely one delicious meal for me!

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  56. I would be willing to pick off bugs in order to eat that delicious dish. I have never picked mushrooms - it must have tasted fabulous. Great post for the Hearth and Soul Hop!

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  57. How cool that you had enough to dry! I always think it's interesting how dried mushrooms take on a different character from their fresh counterparts.

    Thanks for sharing this one with the Hearth and Soul hop. You know I adore a good foraging post :)

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  58. I am laughing out loud at the bug portion of this post! You remind me of my girls! Hehhe...very cool that you were able to find these and enjoy them fresh. I dont think I have ever had the pleasure of fresh maitake, but i do love the reconstituted ones! Awesome foraging post and thanks as always for hosting and posting on the hearth and soul hop! Alex

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