by Fungi Perfecti
Hen-of-the-Woods (Grifola Frondosa/Maitake) is the most common gourmet/medicinal mushroom that grows in Illinois. Most people are unaware of how common this mushroom is to this area and unaware of its wonderful taste. We harvest approximately 70-90 pounds per year from mature Oak trees (although this year I also harvested a rather flaccid specimen from an Ash tree) for our own use. I could harvest more, but I need a break from the endless cleaning. Oaks still produce the largest, healthiest, and tastiest mushrooms. The best and most flavorful specimens are found in the latter part of the season after the leaves have fallen off the trees and the mushroom "tan" a velvety raw umber. A broth made from these specimens taste is rich, almost coffee-like, and has an immediate restorative effect when sipped from a cup. We dry much of this harvest to make broths and soups throughout the year (The Bresse Mushroom Soup recipe from "The Greens Cookbook" is my favorite soup recipe. Very basic and allows the mushroom flavor to dominate). However, our favorite is to simply cook them in oil. This is a delicious recipe that I have developed over the years:
1/4 cup (or more) Olive Oil infused with lots of Garlic and fresh Basil (make it days beforehand)
1 teaspoon Sesame Seed Oil
2–3 pounds of Hen-of the-Woods
2–3 tablespoons of "Spike" brand seasoning
1–2 tablespoons of Fino Sherry (dry sherry)
Heat oils to a high temperature (cook on high). Add mushrooms stir to coat and brown for 5–7 minutes. Turn down to medium-high and cook for another 5 minutes. Spread mushroom evenly across pan and coat top with a layer of Spike. Mix together. Add sherry, stir, and cook for 2 minutes. Turn down to low and cook for 5–10 minutes. Eat.