Hen of the Woods Tacos or...Maitake tacos or...Maita-cos…
Updated: Feb 7
This recipe is simple and insanely delicious and even vegetarian, able to be vegan and/or gluten free, too. So it works for everyone and disappoints none, no matter their dietary inclinations! Essentially, take a Hen of the Woods (a large cauliflower shaped mushroom with a density and texture akin to chicken meat), slice into manageable pieces, marinate for a while, cook, dice, serve in tacos. Nothing super complicated. This is also very conducive to being done with mushrooms other than Hen of the Woods (chicken of the woods works great, as would lobster mushrooms, etc.).
A nice big maitake (about 2 lbs)
Red Wine Vinegar
2 4 oz. cans of Chipotle Peppers marinated in Adobo
1 big white onion
1 bunch of cilantro
Sliced radishes for garnish
Corn tortillas (18 if you like to go single tortilla style, 36 if you like to double up for each taco)
Step One: Marinade the Mushroom, night or morning before grilling
2 cans of Chipotle Peppers in Adobo
3 cups of canola oil
2 cup of honey
¾ cup of red wine vinegar
¼ cup of lime juice
3 tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp salt
Cayenne and/or hot sauce to taste
Maitake sliced into large slices
Alright grab your favorite blender or food processor and buzz up all the ingredients aside from the mushroom. I like spicy so I went with a lot of cayenne and hot sauce, though honestly, in the marinade it makes less of a difference in the final product, so you can always save that for the finished tacos. Once it’s all buzzed up then take your mushroom and in a large leftover container put a small amount of marinade down, then lay down the slices of mushroom and top with marinade. Lay down more slices, top with more marinade. Continue until all the mushroom is in contact with the marinade. If there’s not enough marinade to match the mushrooms, in a separate bowl feel free to toss together a bit of oil, honey, vinegar, hot sauce and some spices and pour that over the top. Cover with a lid and refrigerate.
How long do you marinate for? Well, I guess it depends. Sometimes you find a hen in its prime. If so, its moist and still firm. At this stage, probably only a few hours is needed. Other times, the hen is older and large and maybe drying out on the outer fronds. Then it may warrant a little more time to essentially rehydrate. I had one that was kind of middle of the road edges drying out a bit but center still firm but not super moist. I did it overnight, but less I think would've been fine.
Step Two: Prep other ingredients
I went wild with this step. Took a bunch of my garden veggies (a variety of peppers, onion
and tomatoes) and fire roasted them, pureed them in my blender, added salt, lime juice, a handful of chopped cilantro. I didn’t add any sugar, and I don’t think it needs it, but some might argue with that, so feel free if you think it’s right. There’s your salsa. On the other hand, there’s a lot of folks that make good salsa out there (particularly that pale green emulsified salsa from your local taqueria!), so use that or just hot sauce. There are, however, some non-negotiable toppings* for a classic taco, which are:
1. A large handful of cilantro chopped
2. Half a large white onion finely diced. I cheated on this one and instead quick pickled some onion and radish
3. Cut the limes into wedges, 6 wedges per lime
4. OBVIOUSLY: Warmed up Tortillas (don’t do this till right before or while you are grilling)
*Some might add cotija or shredded cheese, but I don’t think it’s necessary
Step Three: Grill the Mushrooms
Before you grill these beauties, pull them out of the fridge and place on a paper towel lined plate. Layer mushroom slices, then paper towels, then mushroom slices, then paper towels, so that the mushroom slices get fairly dried off and are no longer sopping with marinade. Start your grill, have a beer or a coffee or whatever your guilty pleasure is and relax. Once the coals are hot, push them to one side and throw on the mushrooms over direct heat. Watch carefully, as they will quickly cook. Get some nice grill marks on each side, turn, then place over the indirect heat part of the grill. Take the next couple slices and put over direct heat and continue in this fashion until everything has been cooked. At some point, once everything is close to done, pause on the grill and get your tortillas warmed up. You can just wrap them in a damp paper towel, place on a baking sheet and turn oven to lowest setting. If in a hurry, you can microwave them wrapped in a damp paper towel, but on principle its never advisable to microwave anything. Just on principle. Once they are all cooked, remove from grill and chop.
Step Four: Plate it up!
Take a plate, slap three tortillas on it, spoon a healthy heaping of hen of the woods into the center of the taco shell. Then sprinkle some onion, cilantro, add your homemade salsa, or store bought salsa, or just your favorite hot sauce is all that you need. I pickled some radishes and added that, if you want. A lot of the legit Mexican joints near me serve fresh sliced radishes to add for an additional fresh peppery crunch. It’s up to you! What is left is enjoying the fact that you are about to eat a 100% vegetarian taco that is insanely delicious.