Sheephead mushrooms go by many names, including hen of the woods, maitake and cloud mushroom. They have an unusual appearance, growing in large clumps at the base of oak trees, with spoon-like caps. Although they look quite different from the more popular button mushroom, sheephead mushrooms can be cooked in all the same ways.
Stems and Caps
Unlike other popular types of mushrooms, such as button mushrooms, the stems of sheephead mushrooms can be tough. They are edible, but for most recipes it is better to remove the stems and only prepare the caps. Clean and cook the mushrooms using the same methods as just about any other type of mushroom. Sheephead mushrooms have a slightly stronger flavor than some other types of mushrooms, so although they can be used the same way as button mushrooms, the caps impart a stronger flavor to the dish.
Sheephead mushrooms saute quickly. It generally takes only three to six minutes for the mushrooms to cook completely, depending on how thick the slices are. Season the caps with garlic, onions, basil or thyme, or use dried salad dressing seasoning mix. Substitute creamy balsamic dressing for butter or olive oil when you saute the mushrooms. Sauteed sheephead mushrooms work well as a side, added to a side dish, as a topping for hamburgers or as part of a savory mushroom gravy for steaks and roasts.
Cook large sheephead mushrooms directly on the barbecue grate or on a sheet of aluminum foil placed on the grate. Grill the same way you would other vegetables, like asparagus, bell pepper and onion. Add flavor by making a foil packet with the mushrooms, a clove of garlic and a few tablespoons of peppercorn ranch dressing. Sheephead mushrooms can also be added to kabobs in place of button mushrooms or stuffed inside grilled hamburgers or chicken breasts.
Sheephead mushrooms can be roasted either in the oven or in the microwave. Roasting results in a slightly firmer texture than sauteing or grilling. This makes it even more important to cook only the caps, since the stems are likely to become even tougher through roasting. Add a little butter, olive oil or salad dressing for moisture. Stuff the caps before roasting for a delicious appetizer, or roast with spices for a side dish. Roasted mushrooms can also be frozen after cooking for later use as side dishes or in a dinner recipe.
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