Meat the Press Mondays: Hen of the Woods Duxelle

So, we are taking a break from our regularly scheduled broadcast of Meat the Press Mondays due to the small issue of Justin forgetting to charge the battery (and backup battery) for the camera…woops :).  Next week we will return with some great new videos for you.

A couple weeks ago we highlighted the use of compound butters to enhance a meat.  Today we would like to discuss the use of a duxelle, specifically a Hen of the Woods mushroom duxelle, to make your next dish stand out.  We thought this would be great due to the popularity lately of our previous Fresh Fridays posts about these great wild mushrooms.

This year in New England agriculture has been one of mixed blessings,  we had lots of rain which translated to good watering of crops and aesthetic plants alike.  Some plants had trouble, mixed growing seasons, some did ok, or about the same as always, and some did especially well.  In the beginning of the year, the Hadley asparagus was a little on and off, with plentiful harvests and great availability one week, and then limited to no availability the next.  Fortunately, asparagus grows extremely fast.   On the other hand a crop that grows relatively slow, pumpkins, had a bad year here in New England.  The ground was just too wet for too long and the big orange fruits had issues with mold and rot.  Joe recently observed the price of a three pack of kind of crappy small/mediumish pumpkins at $14…not what we’re used to seeing at all.  But the real blessing from all the rain this year has been the abundance of wild mushrooms, in particular the Hen of The Woods type, which we thoroughly enjoy and have written about before.

This weekend at work we had calls from three different mushroom foragers asking us how much we needed.  Fortunately for our friends we are loyal customers and went with our regular mushroom man and we ended up purchasing some of the most beautiful Hen Of The Woods mushrooms that either of us have seen to date.
Hen of the Wood mushrooms are favorites of people that live in the area but many do not know the rich history of this mushroom.  For over four thousand years, these wild mushrooms, also know as “Mitake” mushrooms have been praised in Japan for it’s excellent health benefits, including:
  • Stimulating the immune system
  • Regulating the healthy functioning of the digestive system
  • Moderating blood sugar levels
  • Providing anti-oxidant support
  • Improving skin health
  • Assisting in weight control
  • Calming of the nervous system

Due to their abundance in Japan, this wild mushroom makes up one of the 4 major or so major mushrooms which are popular in the country.  Within the United States, Hen of the Woods are typically found in the Northeast but some have been found as far away as Idaho.  In the Northeast, Mitakes typically grow in clusters at the foots of big oak trees which is exactly where our local mushroom forager has been finding them for us.  These mushrooms can grow up to 50 pounds earning them the nickname of “King of Mushrooms”.  With mushrooms that can grow so big, there is only one thing to do and that is come up with recipes to use them in!

A couple weeks ago when we got our first Hen of the Woods mushrooms of the season, we ran a risotto special last time and it sold like hotcakes.  Joe doesn’t like to be repetitive, so this time around we ran a special featuring a Hen Of The Woods duxelle, which is just a fancy word for mushroom stuffing.  We used this stuffing in filet mignon, which was butterflied, pinwheel style (basically unrolling the filet like it was a roll of paper towels), spread a generous layer of my duxelle on the inside and then rolled back up, tied with butchers twine, and grilled the whole thing.  The result is a wonderful melding of mushroom and beef flavors in every bite.  Doing a stuffing like this is also especially nice because the juices released by the meat as it cooks are absorbed by the mushrooms, and mushroom juices are permeating the steak as it rests both before and after cooking, creating a delicious harmony of flavor.   This stuffing is especially good in game birds, pork, or even as a spread on crackers or in a puff pastry appetizer.  But if you’ve read any of our previous posts you well know that I am partial to beef, so naturally that is where my duxelle ended up this week.

Hen Of The Woods Duxelle

  • 1.5 lbs hen of the woods mushrooms, stems and leaves, evenly distributed and chopped to a small rough dice
  • 1/2 large onion, small chop
  • 1 leek white part only, small chop
  • 1 tsp garlic minced fine
  • 4 slices bacon, rough chop
  • 1/2 cup dry white cooking wine
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1/8 lemon worth of juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Once you have all your chopping done this recipe is really easy. Start by rendering the fat out of the bacon on a large pan over medium heat.  When the bacon bits are crisp remove them and set aside.  In the rendered bacon fat add the onion and the leek, saute till  the onion and leek are soft and begin to almost brown,  add the garlic and stir to combine, next add all the mushroom bits, mix well, and when the mushrooms begin to sing to you, salt liberally.   Keep stirring, and when the mixture seems to be slightly reduced and looks a bit dry, add the wine, let this mixture reduce stirring occasionally, and when approximately, 7/8 of the liquid has reduced/been absorbed, add the lemon juice, parsley, and reserved bacon bits, mix to heat through, then taste to check for seasoning, add more salt and black pepper if needed.

The result should be sweet and aromatic from the onion and leek, and woodsy and rich from the mushroom, with a hit of salty savoriness from the bacon flavor, which will all be balanced with a slight fresh tang from the acid of the lemon juice. Now all you have to do is let the duxelle cool before stuffing your favorite food with it, use it liberally, and experiment with a wide variety of foods.  The duxelle will hold well in the fridge for several days, or if you can’t get to it immediately, do what my mushroom forager does, pop it in an old ice cube tray, wrap it tightly and freeze it.

Enjoy!

You can download a PDF version of this Hen of the Woods Duxelle recipe

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Contributing Writer: Joseph M. Gionfriddo
Photo by: sweet little bunny

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Fresh Fridays: Hen of the Woods Mushrooms

So, recently while at work in our kitchen one of our friends who’s been around the restaurant industry for a long time stopped by the back door with some exciting news!  He was recently out in the woods on a rare day off performing one of his favorite pastimes…mushroom foraging.  He had brought his good luck to the restaurant to show off.  The back of his Jeep was filled with about 50 pounds of various sized Hen Of The Woods mushrooms.   Being curious we bit hook, line and sinker.  Joe had worked with these mushrooms briefly in the past it had been a while.   When we told our friend this he happily gave us a few juicy tidbits of information (as any proud mushroom forager would) about this particular fungus.

The tidbit of info that really caught our attention might seem insignificant to some but to us, when we heard that the Hen of the Woods is also know as Maitake in Japanese, we were officially SOLD.  The reason this meant so much to us, has to do with the fact that we both have been lifelong fans of the Japanese cooking show/contest/battle know in the US as Iron Chef (the original show, not the Food Network version).  Any good fan of the show will tell you that Maitake mushrooms are a prized delicacy and are used often in the lavish dishes created in Kitchen Stadium.

So we then began to do a little research on this mushroom that is foraged in the forests of the Northeast US as well as most of Northeast Japan.  It is a heavy yielder with specimens commonly reaching 10 or 20 pounds (the one we purchased was just around 6 pounds).  They are commonly found at the base of hardwood trees, and tend to grow in the same spot perennially.  They are a good eating mushroom, with characteristics similar to a white button mushroom, with a denser texture, and a pleasant woodsy flavor.

We bought our prized specimen on Sunday evening, had Monday off, and Tuesday began to test different cooking and cleaning methods, as well as to research some recipes.  So far we have found that the best way to clean these large mushrooms is to cut away the hard parts of the main trunk on the underside as well as any dirty or sandy areas you might find. Next, work your way up peeling off the main leaves.  These will break apart and segment easily and you will then be left with a piece of mushroom that looks like an ear or a funny looking half of a an oyster shell, with a bit of the white trunk attached underneath.  This trunk is a bit tough and can easily be torn away.  Go through the rest of the mushroom and clean it into pieces that are of an appropriate size to what you will be cooking. If you can’t eat them right away then break them into pieces that will fit into a freezer bag and freeze them. The density of this type of mushroom makes it especially adaptable to freezing and thawing.

We had great success preparing the Hen of the Woods (or Maitake) mushrooms in a simple risotto.  Start by breaking 2 or 3 oz of mushroom into approximately 1/2″ square pieces and sauté them in a little cooking oil over medium heat.  When the mushroom pieces start to “talk” to you it is time to season them with a good pinch of kosher salt and then reduce heat to medium/low. Let the mushrooms cook for a good 10 minutes as this will help tenderize these dense fellows.  Once the mushrooms are getting tender add a small pat of butter, wait for it to melt and start to become absorbed by the mushrooms then add about a cup and a half worth of your 9/10ths of the way cooked risotto (The process of making a perfect risotto is another chapter entirely which we will cover at a later time). Add a few ladles of your favorite homemade stock (ours happens to be a garlic/ginger based vegetable stock) and another good pinch of kosher salt.  Let this all simmer on low heat till 90% of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring occasionally.  Next add a few pats more butter, wait till it is all melted in and finish by adding a good handful of grated hard cheese such as Parmesan or Asiago and stir until all the cheese is melted and mixed in.   Now for the most important step – Turn off the heat and walk away for 10 minutes (or at least a solid 5).  Great risotto needs to set and kind of gel together to ensure that perfect creamy, melty (our new word 🙂 ), macaroni and cheese-for-adults type texture.

This is the first recipe we have tried with our Hen of the Woods and so far we’re loving them! So a big thank you is in order to my local mushroom forager.  For those folks who are interested in trying some Hen of the Woods, now is their season so hit up your independent groceries, farmers markets, and local restaurants that support these organizations and you should have no problem finding some.

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