You either love mushrooms, or you don’t. I do, and I’ve just decided that maitake mushrooms are my favorite. Grilled Maitake Mushrooms to be precise. Weirdly, until recently I’d never grilled a mushroom before. That’s probably because I’ve been to one too many vegetarian barbecues and listened to everyone half-heartedly exclaim how the grilled portobello mushrooms were every bit as good as “real” meat. Well, I have news for you – they’re not. In fact, grilled portobello mushrooms aren’t even as good as “real” mushrooms. In my opinion, grilled portobellos have given grilled mushrooms a bad name. Unfortunately, I’ve never introduced my grill to a “real” mushroom before.
Then, while walking the Hollywood Farmers Market with my good friend and fellow blogger Jackie, The Beeroness, our discussion turned to mushrooms and her favorite “mushroom guy” occupying the last stall before Sunset Blvd. I soon found myself with a bagful of maitake mushrooms and a vague idea of grilling them. Grilled Maitake Mushrooms.
If you could peek inside my bag you’d see that the maitake mushroom (a.k.a. hen of the woods) is a fanciful-looking thing. Frilly and bulbous, like a cross between brain coral and a ruffled shirt. They grow on the forest floor in large, ragged clumps at the base of oak trees. They look nothing like the mushrooms we’re used to seeing in the grocery store. If a hedgehog went to Phyllis Diller’s hairstylist it might leave the salon looking like a maitake mushroom. In other words, maitake mushrooms look intimidating but they’re not nearly as delicate (or as exotic) as they seem. Which makes them terrific for grilling.
Grilled Maitake Mushrooms
You’ll often see maitake mushrooms chopped and sauteed in Asian dishes. They’re delicious, but the ingredient can get a bit lost in the muddle of a stirfry. Besides, I’m a purist when it comes to beautiful ingredients. So I suggest you keep things simple and serve Grilled Maitake Mushrooms in big clusters – the way they grow in the woods. They make an impressive presentation and they won’t fall through the grates either.
To grill them lay them out on a tray and drizzle generously with oil. By generously I mean way more than you think you’d need; they absorb oil like a sponge. The fat of the oil certainly enhances the flavor, but it also helps the mushrooms stand up to the high heat of the grill. Once the Grilled Maitake Mushrooms are nicely charred simply season them to taste. That’s all.
Grilled Maitake Mushrooms just may be my favorite grilled mushroom, but I admit they can be hard to come by in pristine condition. In that case, I encourage you to experiment. You can use this same simple method to grill shiitake, porcini, oyster, or even portobellos (if you must). GREG