I pulled in the driveway one evening and saw the headlights play over a strange shape at the base of a tree… and that’s how I found my first hen-of-the-woods mushroom. At the base of an aging oak tree. Right in my front yard. Lucky me!
I had to break the mushroom into a few pieces to get it from the base of the tree to the kitchen. The whole mushroom weighed 7lb 12oz.
I cleaned up the first piece get a feel for working with this delicious smelling mushroom. The bottom pile is the caps, the top left is the stem sliced into pieces, and the top right is the woody stem where the mushroom was attached to the ground. Full of nooks and crannies, these are a bit more involved to clean compared to your average button mushroom.
Here are the pieces after brushing and trimming the woody stems. I put them up for night while I decided what to do with my new found treasure…
I settled on attempting to recreate the porcini risotto from my visit to Lyon. I cut up another piece to get enough caps for the risotto and used the sliced stems to add flavor to the chicken stock.
I diced up the leeks for the sauté.
To get the party started, I sautéed the caps in a few batches.
Once the caps were all browned, I got the risotto started with the rice and leeks.
This was my first risotto. According to the recipe, you add a ladle at a time and cook until absorbed as opposed to adding all the liquid at once. I have no idea why… I’ll research that one someday…Half way through the cooking time for the rice, the mushrooms joined the party.
Risotto finished with a helping of grated parm.
A nice close up for posterity.
A little extra coarsely grated parm for good measure.
And the verdict? Absolutely delicious and a successful first risotto. Mushrooms were a little gritty – need to clean more thoroughly even at the expense of breaking up the caps or losing flavor from using too much water. And porcinis are better than hen-of-the-woods. And French chefs are better at risotto than I am. And I loved it anyway 🙂
The next batch of fresh mushrooms went with boneless loin chops cooked with paprika and caraway for a German flavor to go with the cucumber salad. I roasted the mushrooms with olive oil, garlic, shallots, salt and pepper and then served with a thyme & red wine vinaigrette. This batch was thoroughly cleaned and absolutely wonderful with the chops and salad.
I will now look forward to October as much as May… Morels in May and Hen-of-the-Woods in October.