Friday, September 30, 2005

Maitake Mushroom Facts

Hen-of-the-woods or Maitake Mushroom

scientific name: Grifola frondosa

AKA Sheep's Head or Dancing mushroom

The Maitake mushroom has been cultivated for many years in Asia, especially Japan, where it originated. Maitake means "dancing mushroom," because they were so valued that whoever found them would dance for joy. It's a very versitile and delicious mushroom. Freshly picked and cooked Hen of the Woods are wonderful

Season and Habitat

Grifola frondosa fruits anytime from early September to late October and seems to be triggered by the first cold nights of the end of Summer. It is found mostly with dead or dying Oak trees, though some regularly find clusters under a dead Maple

Maitake or Hen of the Woods Mushroom (Grifola frondosa)

Widely variable in color, from pure white to tan to brown to gray. It appears to get darker depending on direct sunlight. Large overlapping leaf-like fronds grow in bushy clusters that get larger with time. Each frond is from a half to four inches across and is usually darker to the outward edges. The entire fruiting body can be as big as several feet across. The underside of individual caps consists of a pure white pore surface. Grifola frondosa is a polypore, a mushroom which disperses its spores from pores as opposed to gills. The pores are close together and tiny, almost difficult to see. The caps are firm and juicy. The stem is thick firm, white and branched. The spore print is white.


Maitake mushrooms have a distinctive aroma with a rich, woodsy taste.


Many gilled mushrooms grow in large clumps-remember that hen-of-the-woods is a pore fungus. This mushroom has no poisonous look-alikes, but there are some similar species of pore fungi that are tough and inedible. If what you have tastes leathery or otherwise unpleasant, you probably didn't pick a hen-of-the-woods.

Shelf Life:

Maitakes usually last 7-10 days. Keep refrigerated in paper bags.

Some Serving Suggestions:
  • Sauté lightly in butter or oil.
  • Adds richer taste to any cooked recipe calling for mushrooms.
  • Goes well as main dish ingredient, in side dishes and soups.

Storing The Hen of the Woods Mushroom

Hen of the Woods Mushrooms as big as forty or fifty pounds are not uncommon, I have tried numerous ways to store them for use all winter. Some people dry or can these mushrooms, but freezing is the best method of preserving them.

All you need to prepare for freezing is a knife, a towel, a bowl and lots of freezer bags. It is simply a matter of cleaning and bagging them, then popping the bags directly into the freezer. That's all there is to it, sweet simplicity. No pre-cooking or par-boiling is needed. Once frozen the mushrooms can last up to two years. Chop the mushrooms into different size pieces in different bags to use different ways. I also shred it like you would string cheese.

The cleaner the mushroom the better when bagging because you'll want to defrost right in the pan. If the mushrooms were growing under a rotten tree, the mushroom can actually grow around the wood particles and they'll be embedded in the mushroom flesh. Those mushrooms may not worth cleaning unless you have no choice.

Wild Mushroom Season is On it's Way!

Hen of the Woods Fritters

This experiment turned out quite well. This may become a favorite seasonal recipe, A light, crispy and very tasty batter filled with fragrant succulent mushroom shreds.

  • 1 ½ cups hen of the woods mushrooms
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • cold beer
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  1. Pull apart the mushroom into long thin strands.
  2. Beat the yolks of the eggs well.
  3. Add the flour, beating very lightly.
  4. Add the melted butter and the dry ingredients.
  5. Thin with water to the consistency of a very thick crepe.
  6. Add the egg whites beaten to a stiff froth.
  7. Dip the shredded mushroom into the batter.
  8. Immerse them well at one dipping.
  9. Lift out with a large cooking spoon.
  10. Drop into 350 degree oil and fry to a golden brown.
  11. Drain well and serve immediately.

These make a great appetizer or side dish. Try it with your favorite dipping sauce. The batter must be thick enough to coat the shredded mushroom all around in one immersion, yet it must not be so thick as to be heavy or tough.

Makes 4 servings.

Filipino Chicken and Pork Adobo

Adobo is considered the national dish of the Philippines. This dish consists of chunks of chicken or pork or both cooked in soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaf, lots of garlic and whole peppercorns. The stew is allowed to cook until the meats are tender and the remaining sauce slightly thickened. Some people prefer their adobos dry which may entail frying them afterwords, while others prefer them moist served in their original sauce. As a style of cooking, it can be applied to fowl, fish, shellfish and vegetables.

Chicken & Pork Adobo

  • 1 cup distilled white or cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbs. peeled & crushed garlic
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 bay leaves (laurel)
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 2 pounds pork butt, cut into cubes
  • soy sauce
  • vegetable oil
  1. Combine the vinegar, water, garlic, salt, bay leaves & pepper into a large casserole.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Add the meat to the mixture and stir.
  4. Cover the Casserole & bring to a boil.
  5. Simmer & cook for about 30 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle liberally with soy sauce
  7. Cook for an additional 10 minutes.
  8. Remove the meat & reduce sauce.
  9. Remove sauce to a bowl.
  10. Put oil into the casserole & brown cooked meat.
  11. Drain oil from the casserole,
  12. Return the sauce to the meat.
  13. Serve with rice.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

In Memory of What We have Lost

I have not posted here in a while. Recent events have forced me away to write about the ruin that I had called my home years ago. To me the Gulf Coast was paradise. Friendly living in a place where people had a deep and abiding joy of living and a wonderful tradition of excellent cooking. I lived close to Biloxi, near to Ocean Springs and Vancleave.

I see images of restaurants where they knew our names and drink orders. The building is now hundreds of feet from where it stood. A gutted derelict beached and broken. You always think that our dreams work out. I have longed to return to the Gulf, but it looks like a while before I could make a real difference by being there.

I have not been able to contact people I care about, a friend shared the good news that her family in New Orleans is safe. I am so happy for her. I send my prayers to all those people who are without a home tonight. Please help in whatever way you can. What hurts one hurts us all, What heals someone heals us all.