As a summer-lover, sun-worshiper, and heat-seeker, I never thought I’d be so grateful to say goodbye. I’ve also never experienced a year with nearly 70 days at or above 100 degrees before. When you can’t go for a walk midday without burning to a crisp, or using your car for anything but baking cookies, it shifts the script significantly. There’s still a lot to love, from ripe heirloom tomatoes to warm late night swims, but for the first time ever, I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to embrace fall with open arms.
To that end, I’m diving head-first into cozy comfort foods. Bring on the pasta drowned in browned butter, the sautéed mushrooms dancing in white wine. It’s the season of wild mushrooms, flourishing in cool, damp weather. Nestled at the base of oak trees or hidden beneath fallen leaves, they cluster together like a bouquet of flowers, blooming in earthy shades of browns and greys. Springing up where you’d least expect it, luck is often a more important factor than skill when it comes to foraging.
This is my favorite type of backyard chicken. Hen of the woods mushrooms get their name from those feathery, frilled caps, said to look like a sitting hen. Given that they can grow into masses upwards of 50 pounds, I’d like that think there are no barnyard animals that can really measure up.
What makes hen of the woods mushrooms so great?
Also known as maitake mushrooms, they’ve long been touted for their medicinal properties, such as:
- Boosting the immune system
- Reducing cancer risks
- Stabilizing blood sugar
- Helping regulate blood pressure
What I’m most interested in, however, is their culinary value.
What do hen of the woods mushrooms taste like?
Both subtly nuanced and boldly earthy, delicate yet peppery and assertive, hen of the woods mushrooms are a brilliant bundle of contradictions. One moment they’re soft and tender, buttery and supple, the next they’re almost audibly crunchy, chewy and crisp. There’s no alternative that exactly replicates such a unique eating experience.
Pair that with a luscious blanket of caramelized onions, slowly browned over low heat, with a cascading sauce of nutty browned butter, spiked with a splash of dry white wine. Vegan tortellini tumble and tangle within the wilted mushroom fronds, springs of curly kale sprouting wildly like an overgrown forest floor. It’s a rustic, untamed, and understated plating for a powerhouse of flavor. Toasted pecans rain down like a gentle shower, ending with a clean, clear crunch.
While it’s a dish that could exist in any season given greater accessibility to farmed mushrooms and imported produce, the heart and soul of it can only exist in autumn. In the growing darkness and increasing cold, let it envelop you in warmth. Take comfort knowing that there’s so much good to come of this new season.
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Pound Yellow Onions, Halved and Thinly Sliced
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
Browned Butter Tortellini:
- 1/2 Cup Vegan Butter
- 2 Tablespoons Brown Rice Miso
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Rosemary, Roughly Crumbled
- 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
- 4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 9 - 10 Ounces Fresh Hen of the Woods Mushrooms
- 1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
- 1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
- 8 Ounces Vegan Tortellini, Cooked Al Dente
- 8 Ounces Fresh Kale, Stemmed and Roughly Chopped
- 1/2 Cup Pecans, Toasted
- First, caramelize the onions. Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Season with salt, turn down the heat to medium-low, and continue to cook, stirring periodically, for 40 to 45 minutes. You’ll want to stir more frequently towards the end of the cooking time to prevent the onions from sticking and burning. Gradually, the color will darken to a rich amber brown. Stir in the pepper, remove from the heat, and let cool.
- Meanwhile, begin browning the butter. Set a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the vegan butter. Once it has nearly melted, the miso and rosemary. Continue to cook for 2 - 3 minutes, stirring continuously, until the mixture is golden and aromatic. Add the garlic and mushrooms, stirring to incorporate.
- Cook for 4 - 5 minutes longer, until the mushrooms have cooked down a bit. Gently pour in the wine and vinegar, being careful in case is sputters and splashes back. Stir well and add the tortellini and kale, tossing gently to incorporate. Cook just until the kale wilts; 1 - 2 minutes.
- Transfer to plates and top with toasted pecans. Serve right away while steaming hot.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 828Total Fat: 45gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 4gUnsaturated Fat: 34gCholesterol: 24mgSodium: 679mgCarbohydrates: 93gFiber: 23gSugar: 21gProtein: 25g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.