Wild Mushroom ( Hen of the Woods)( Chicken Mushroom) Penne Pasta

One of my favorite things about West Virginia is finding wild mushrooms. I modified the ingredients for this dish around the holidays when Tom and I grew sick of eating turkey and ham. This recipe could use any mushroom but as I have learned more about wild mushrooms it is wonderful for the meaty and almost fibrous Hen of the woods.

Hen of the Woods...Grifola frondosa

Hen of the Woods…Grifola frondosa

Hen of the Woods can range from almost white to almost totally grey.It ranges in size from about a pound to some here in West Virginia that have come in at 80 pounds. This mushroom a choice edible. The Hen of the Woods  should not turn blue/black when bruised  and should not have  an unpleasant odor.  The small mushroom on the left of this photo is the one that we took in the house to eat as it was a gift from friends. Our little mushroom hit the scale at about 5 1/2 pounds. Just as a size reference it took up the entire dish strainer when I cleaned it.  The center mushroom was about 12 pounds and about the size of my kitchen sink.

cleaning and draining a Hen of the woods Mushroom

cleaning and draining a Hen of the woods Mushroom

Warning…  edible mushrooms are easy to mix up with poisonous ones  learn them before you eat.

As with any of my mushroom posts I encourage everyone who wants to start looking for mushrooms to buy several mushroom identification books and find other hunters in your area to help with identification.  Some wild mushrooms are very poisonous and can kill a grown human in a few hours.  Remember to only try one new mushroom at a time.That way if there is a reaction to the fungus, you know what type of mushroom it is making you ill. Cook all wild mushroom before eating this also reduces allergic reactions to the fungus. Always keep a sample of the mushroom in case you have misidentified the mushroom and need medical attention. Get an outside person to look over your findings…. can’t hurt to have a second pair of eye looking at what you want to eat.

I cleaned this large mushroom in a large sink full of warm water. The water needs to cover the entire mushroom and it should ideally soak for about 25 to 30 minutes. This allows the small bugs, slugs, dirt, leaves or any other unwanted matter time to drown or soften and float to the bottom of the sink. Remove the mushroom from water, drain and rinse again with tap water. Place the clump of wet mushroom in dish strainer to drain. The mushroom can now be canned, frozen, or cooked. I cut this big guy up and froze about 3/4 of it for the winter.

bag of frozen Hen of the Woods mushrooms

bag of frozen Hen of the Woods mushrooms

Hen of the woods is one of the few mushrooms that freeze extremely well and does not lose its firm texture  when thawed. So this one is a wonderful winter cooking staple. After cutting up the large mushroom I patted the branches dry and placed about 2 pounds per bag. Using about two cups of frozen branches for the following recipe.

Hen of the Woods Penne Pasta

Hen of the Woods Penna Pasta

Hen of the Woods Penne Pasta

serves 5 to 6  baked at 350 degrees

  1. quart Italian tomato sauce or marinara sauce
  2. 1 pound penne pasta
  3. 1 pound Italian Sausage ( we use sweet or mild)
  4. 1  green sweet bell pepper
  5. 1 med yellow onion
  6.  2 cups Hen of the Woods thawed mushrooms
  7.  2 cloves garlic crushed
  8. 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  9. 2 cups shredded cheese Mozzarella, Cheddar, or blended cheese

Begin with a 2 quart casserole coated with cooking spray or butter the casserole dish set a side. Boil salted water in a large pot and cook 1 lb noodles until about 3/4 the way soft. Drain noodles and set a side. They will continue to cook when baked with other ingredients  in oven.

In a large skillet break up and brown 1 lb of sweet Italian sausage. When browned all the way through remove from pan and set a side. To skillet oils add garlic and thawed mushroom and saute until mushrooms begin to brown at the edges.

saute mushrooms and garlic remaining oils in skillet

saute mushrooms and garlic remaining oils in skillet

Then add in onions, peppers, saute until onions begin to turn translucent and peppers begin to soften , under cook the vegetables so they remain some what crunchy they will continue to cook in the oven when baked.

Hen of the Woods, onions. peppers and garlic saute

Hen of the Woods, onions. peppers and garlic saute

Add cooked sausage to casserole dish followed by cooked mushrooms and vegetables. Mix together and add one quart of pasta sauce, 1 pound of cooked penna pasta.

sausage, onion, peppers, hen of the woods mushrooms, garlic in casserole dish

sausage, onion, peppers, hen of the woods mushrooms, garlic in casserole dish

Add into mixture 1 cup Parmesan cheese and mix well. Cleaning the rim of dish after mixing to prevent burning while in oven. Top mixture with shredded cheese and bake covered at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

adding pasta, Parmesan cheese and sauce to mixture in cassarole

adding pasta, Parmesan cheese and sauce to mixture in casserole

 The  topping will appear melted and the filling will appear bubbly when ready to eat. We serve this will garlic bread and a romaine lettuces salad. Making a nice meal that helps incorporate  the woodiness of the wild mushroom without making it distracting in a main dish.  This is one of my husbands favorite dishes as long as I leave the pepper, onion and mushrooms in large slightly crunchy pieces.  

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Just for fun here is a photo of an over grown Hen of the woods that my husband and a friend found while working along a road side for the DOT in 2010.This one was almost to big to eat at 80 pounds and really tough.

Mark Metzger with huge chicken of the woods

Photo used with permission from Mark Metzgar 2013.

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Categories: country cooking, Foraging, Hardwood forest, Mushrooms, West Virginia, wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Wild Mushroom ( Hen of the Woods)( Chicken Mushroom) Penne Pasta

  1. I am kind of finicky about mushrooms, I like some but not others. I tend to like ones that are firm, so this sounds like something I would enjoy and the pictures look delicious. I’m with Tom with the crunchy bits, especially with the peppers and onions. I was at a restaurant for breakfast the other day. I ordered home fries and they asked if I wanted them with onions. I said yes. I figured they had two piles back there, one with onions one without. No, they added fresh onions to the home fires as they heated them up. This left the onions nice and crunchy 🙂

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  2. That is one big mushroom Jolynn and your pasta looks delicious. I love pasta for breakfast.. 🙂 We stick to eating morels here and CH hunts them every spring and we like them fried. Good Morning!

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