Roasted hen of the woods steaks is the first time I cooked a whole hen of the woods or maitake mushroom like a piece of meat. If you get a young hen mushroom without debris or dirt in it, it's one of the best things you can make with them. I serve it with an anchovy sauce, which might sound odd, but one taste and you will be changed.
After a T.V. demo cooking hen of the woods, I had a bunch of perfect mushrooms of varying sizes left over I needed to cook.
I knew that the massive hens would be dismantled to make pickled hen of the woods after the show. But the other two, both about the size of small watermelons, were so nice looking in their natural shape that I thought: What if I cooked them in big clusters, like a vegetarian steak?
The roasted treatment was great, but even more special was how it preserved the natural shape of the hens.
The other part of the recipe is the simple sauce made from anchovies, garlic, lemon and wine. It's a riff on a sauce I used to make as a garnish for a tenderloin at an Italian restaurant.
The sauce could be a post in itself. It's rich and intense. When you serve it on the side it makes the hens seem like a grand roast; a centerpiece for a fall meal.
Roasted Maitake Mushrooms with Anchovy Sauce
- 2-3 lb hen of the woods or maitake mushrooms as young as possible and free of dirt and grit
- Grapeseed oil lard, or other fat with a high smoke point
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
- Some fresh herbs and aromatics for basting the hens optional (I used a sprig of sage, and a couple cloves of garlic)
- 3 tablespoon Unsalted butter as needed for basting (optional)
- 1 recipe white-wine anchovy sauce follows
White Wine Anchovy Sauce
- 3 Tbsp Unsalted butter, separated
- 2 oz tin of anchovies rinsed and roughly chopped
- 1 dash Tobasco
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3 cloves garlic, use larger cloves here, you want about 1.5 tablespoons finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon sliced fresh sage
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 375.
- Trim the hen of the woods meticulously, paying careful attention the base. (After you slice off the dirty root, there still may be layers of dirt and or rocks growing inside the mushroom.
- Cut the stem up until it is pure white, then inspect the rest of the leaves and folds for snails, spiders, and anything else. Dip the hen in cold water quickly and give it a good shake, this will help to dislodge debris.
- Gently separate the hen of the woods into 1lb clumps, these will be your "steaks".
- Heat the fat in a large 10-inch saute pan until nearly smoking. Add the hen of the woods to the pan. Put the pan with the hen of the woods in the oven at 400 F and bake for 10 minutes, then add the herbs to the pan with the hen, making sure there is enough fat left in the pan for them to infuse into.
- Season the hen with salt and pepper. If the hen steaks have soaked up all the fat, add a tbsp. or two more, then roast the hens for 10 more minutes, basting with the foaming butter and flipping the mushrooms occasionally to caramelize all of their sides evenly.
- After about twenty minutes, the hen should be thoroughly cooked, but oven times will vary.
- When cooked through, the entire mushroom should be wilted and hot throughout. When you're sure they're done, place the pan back on the burner, and baste the hens with the remaining herbs and butter, turning over to continue caramelizing all of the sides evenly if needed.
- Remove the hen steaks to a board with a paper towel to drain, then serve immediately, carving them at the table for guests like a piece of meat. Pass the anchovy sauce alongside and watch people fight over it.
- Heat the butter, garlic, sage, and anchovies in a small 8-in. saute pan. Using a wooden spoon, press down on the anchovies and garlic, smashing them as the butter sizzles, when the garlic starts to brown lightly, deglaze the pan with the wine, then reduce the heat to a simmer and add the Tabasco and the black pepper.
- Cook, stirring occasionally until it becomes homogenous. You should end up with about a ½ cup of sauce. Remove the sauce from the heat, add 1 tsp. of lemon juice, and serve immediately.
- If you want to emulsify the sauce and make it creamier, before you add the lemon juice, increase the heat on the pan to medium high, then, using a whisk, vigorously add the remaining unsalted butter, stirring constantly to form a creamy emulsion.
- When all the butter has been absorbed, add the lemon juice, then transfer the sauce immediately to a sauce boat or similar vessel and serve immediately.