Random Ingredient: Hen of the Woods Mushrooms
What is it?
These funny-looking fungi are mushrooms known as maitake in Japan. Native to both Japan and North America, they grow in clusters at the base of trees (unless, of course, they're produced commercially). Other names include Ram's Head or Sheep's Head mushrooms. Some clusters, found in the wild, can weigh up to 80 pounds.
Not just another large clump of fungi, Hen of the Woods mushrooms are currently being studied for their health benefits, including blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol regulation and possible immune system boosts which may help ward off malignant cells (cancer).
What is it used for?
Just like any other mushroom, it's used in soups and stews. Frequently featured in Asian dishes, Hen of the Woods mushrooms also are often brewed as a tea. In Eastern medicine, they are said to help restore immunity.
Marco Canora's Pan-Roasted Hen of the Woods Mushrooms: Courtesy of nymag.com