Yogi Berra said, “It’s ain’t over ’til it’s over.” He could just well have been referring to mushroom season. Deep into November, I wasn’t having much luck, and then the temperatures dipped – to 17 degree lows two nights in a row. “That’s it, I thought.” Then a few days later, the afternoon before Thanksgiving Eve (Nov 25), I got a call from Dino.
I met Dino this fall while we both delivering to Seth Simmerman at Knoxville;s Echo Bistro, and we got acquainted. Dino had heard about me, so he pulled out his cell phone and showed me a picture of a large patch of mushrooms around a stump to identify. They looked like honey mushrooms, so I said, “ Bring them in to Seth and I’ll stop by tomorrow.” He did, and sure enough they were honeys, which Seth used.
A few weeks went by, and on the day in question, he sent me this picture of mushrooms in a box. He said it must have weighed 10 pounds. I did a double take and got right back to him – no doubt in my mind. I met him the next day and weighed out a13 pound Hen of the Woods (click picture to see the whole thing), plus two more small ones that went 2-3 pounds total.
Apparently the Hen had come up right before the deep freeze and survived well. Only a few tips were frostbitten, and scissors took care of that. The nice thing about it being so large was that it had a very large and solid center which let us cut what looked essentialy like mushrooms steaks.
Dino gave me 3-4 pounds as a “consultant”. On Thanksgiving, I cooked cracked-pepper encrusted pork tenderloin, accompanied by yellow potatoes roasted with duck fat. Then, 1/2 pound of Hen (Maitake) went in the pan, along with flour and freshly home made chicken stock to make a wonderful gravy. There were other dinner items, but the feature was Hen gravy – no Turkey today. Yummyyyy.