I love fall. I love it for so many reasons; the cooling weather, the changing leaves, hoodies & bonfires, to name a few. One of the other highlights of fall for me is mushroom hunting. I found my first Hen of the Woods by accident about 6 years ago. We were still building the cabin and I took the dogs out for a walk. I came upon a giant bouquet of what I guessed to be Hen of the Woods at the base of a huge Oak tree . I had heard of the mushroom but wasn’t positive that was what I was looking at.
After making sure of what it was, Nathan & I picked it. We guessed it weighed at least 25 pounds. Hen of the Woods are sometimes called sheep’s head, or ram’s head. It’s Japanese name is maitake, which means “dancing mushroom”. It is said that people would dance for joy upon finding one. (Source)
I have to admit, once I knew what it was I was pretty excited. It’s possible I did dance for joy.
Hen of the Woods is pretty easy to clean. Although it can be pretty time consuming depending on how much of it you have.
The first step is to cut off the dirtiest part of the base with a knife. From there you can either cut apart or pull apart some smaller sections to start cleaning. From here, I usually just pull apart small chunks of the mushroom and rinse under the faucet. Make sure to get the dirt off and any bugs that might be on it. Discard any pieces that looks odd. Sometimes I’ll find pieces with a little too much mold on them or that look a little too rotten.
I like to keep mine in pieces about this size. After washing them off, pat them dry with a paper towel and put into a plastic bag & leave the top open just enough to get some air in the bag. They will stay fresh in the fridge for about a week. The best part about these mushrooms is that they freeze so well. I still have a baggie of them in my freezer from last fall that will still be good to cook.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been lucky enough to find any Hen of the Woods this season. Thankfully, one of our good friends did and was nice enough to bring us a huge chunk a couple of nights ago. I cleaned it up and put one bag in the freezer and decided to try some on a pizza tonight. It turned out pretty delicious so I thought I’d share the recipe!
Hen of the Woods Pizza
I took the easy way out and bought this premade pizza crust. I had grand plans to attempt my own crust but I have yet to perfect that art, and frankly, I was just too tired to try. Same thing with the pizza sauce. Maybe next time I’ll be more motivated.
Begin by preheating your oven to 400 degrees (this might vary depending on the type of crust you use). Next, I chopped up a red onion & sautéed it for a few minutes with some butter and garlic.
I then chopped some of the Hen of the Woods into smaller pieces and threw them in with the onions. I added a green pepper to the mix too.
I cooked all of this for about 15 minutes. I wanted to try to get as much moisture out of the mushrooms as possible without overcooking them. If the mushrooms are too soggy, the pizza crust will get soggy too. While this was all cooking, I added some more garlic, some thyme, salt, pepper & basil. Once most of the moisture from the mushrooms was gone, I put the mixture on the pizza crust.
Then I added some sliced mozzarella, spinach and more seasonings and put it on the middle rack and baked it for about 12 minutes. You could also add the spinach when you’re cooking the mushrooms if you prefer. I added some more spinach on top after the 12 minutes and then broiled for a few more minutes to get the cheese a little brown.
Here’s the finished product! The crust was crispy and the mushrooms were so flavorful. I’ll definitely make this again.
I made a kale salad to go along with it and it was the perfect meal.
Let me know if you try it!
~ Lacey ~