There’s something so primal about a big hen of the woods and breaking off giant clusters to cook whole like a piece of meat, there a great entry level mushroom too, easy to identify, big in size, typically worm-free, delicious.
I don’t know any cooking technique more raw than cooking over burning wood, so what better way to treat those giant caveman clusters of mushrooms than on the grill? Get some matches, a handful of dried logs and light’em up. When they’re ready, the slow burn of the wood embers gives you a totally different flavor than conventional charcoal too, it’s almost like smoking them.
After your hens/maitake are all grilled, browned and caramelized, one of the best things I know to do is just to hit them with a little vinaigrette to cut through the richness of the grill, then add a little salad or some vegetables and call it a day. The vinaigrette here is a heady combo of soy and ginger, with an adjustable amount of heat. It’s great with a bowl of rice and a few wilted greens, or whatever you want.
This specific recipe I did for an issue of Make it Minnesota Magazine, which came out in 2018, if I remember correctly, I’m not exactly sure which issue, or I’d point you to it, but I am sure that grilled hen steaks are great, and this is a fun treatment for them if you want something new to try.
Grilled Hen of the Woods Mushrooms with Ginger-Soy Vinaigrette
- 2 large 4-6 ounce clusters of hen of the woods cleaned and left whole
- Dried firewood or wood charcoal for your grill+makings of a fire like matches and paper I like to stay away from lighter fluid
- A rag and some oil or lard for the grill grates
- A pastry brush for applying the vinaigrette
Ginger-Soy Vinaigrette (makes a cup)
- 3/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha style hot sauce or more to taste
- 1 large garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon ground szechuan peppercorns / prickly ash berries they won't be completely ground
Grill the hens
- Prepare a wood fire. When the embers are nice and hot, about 30 minutes, rub the grill grates with the oiled rag, then grill the hens, turning every few minutes to brush them with the vinaigrette.
- Make sure not to put too much vinaigrette on the hen steaks or the grill can flare.
- When the mushrooms are completely cooked through and caramelized, remove and serve with some of the vinaigrette on the side.
- Put all ingredients in a blender except the sesame oil.
- Puree the mixture on medium speed, drizzling in the oil to reduce friction and help everything get smooth.
- Transfer the vinaigrette to a labeled, dated container and refrigerate until needed.