The "Hen of the Woods" (also known as Maitake) is an extremely versatile mushroom in the kitchen. A friend from Thailand uses it (cooked) in literally everything from soups to salads. An Italian chef I know uses it in breads, pressed into focaccia, on pizza and in main dishes as a sauce flavoring and in lasagna. I've ground it in a food processor and made delicious mushroom pesto that can be served on crusty bread or spooned over pasta with butter. It deep fries well, breaded with Italian seasonings or in tempura. To sum it up it has worked well in every dish I've ever seen it used in, its firm texture and woodsy flavor holding up to any style of cooking without ever becoming an overpowering flavor. What's nice about it is if you find enough -- like the thirty or so pound Hen of the Woods I'm holding in this picture -- you'll have plenty to try in your favorite mushroom recipe. Here's a list of cooking ideas and a few recipes:
Hen of the Woods Pesto
Also: Try adding chunks of Hen of the Woods to soups or sauces.
Add to soups, I.E.: cook sliced onions, carrots and celery in chicken broth with Hen of the Woods, finish with shrimp or chicken. Add chili paste or Thai soup base to several cups of water and cook with mushrooms. Add fine scallion rings, cilantro, soy sauce to taste. whisk a little milk and salt with an egg and make a very thin omelet. Transfer the omelet to a cutting board and slice it into long thin "egg noodles." Add them to the soup and serve.
Mushroom Salad: Souphet (Thai Mushroom Salad)
Here are some other ideas:
Try substituting Hen of the Woods for Morels in this recipe:
Make a Bechamel sauce and add sauteed Hen of the Woods, serve over pasta.
Here's a more American style "salad" recipe - Hen of the Woods Salad
ENJOY! - Roy Reehil
If you are new to collecting wild foods be sure to check