English folklore suggests that Robin Hood hid from the King’s men inside the carved out base of an 800 to1000 year old oak tree in the Sherwood Forest. When the rich were robbing the poor with frivolous taxing, the forest not only provided refuge but also nourishment in the form of meaty hen of the woods mushrooms growing prolifically at the bases of these oak trees. Known in Japan as Maitake, these tasty wild mushrooms are found living on the roots of trees and are prized for their medicinal qualities as well as their rich umami flavor. A prolific, meaty mushroom with a five to ten year growing cycle, this species is known as the “dancing mushroom.” According to Japanese legend, Buddhist nuns discovered a cluster of Maitake mushrooms emerging from the forest floor. Rejoicing at the discovery of this immune system enhancing species, they danced to celebrate. Roasted with little more than garlic, thyme, and olive oil, these mushrooms make for an earthy, substantial, vegetarian meal when served on top of a silky cauliflower puree with a perfectly poached egg. 


cuisine Asian
difficulty Simple
season Year Round
serves 4

Ingredients for the mushrooms

  • 1 pound Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, cleaned and pulled apart into smaller bite-sized clusters
  • 5 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves

for the whipped cauliflower

  • 1 small cauliflower head, florets only
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

for the poached egg

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar

Directions for the mushroom

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Place the mushrooms in a LARGE GRATIN, toss with the minced garlic, the sprigs of thyme, and a generous glug of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place on the middle rack of the oven. Roast for 10 minutes, turn the mushrooms over and roast for 10 to 20 minutes more (until the mushrooms are golden brown and crisp on the edges).

for the whipped cauliflower

  1. Put the cauliflower florets, water, and milk in a MEDIUM POT. Add salt pepper. Bring to a boil and cook until the cauliflower is tender.
  2. Reserve one cup of the cooking liquid and strain the cauliflower florets. Put the florets and 1/2 of reserved liquid into a VITAMIX or blender and puree until smooth. Add additional liquid to achieve the desired consistency. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

for the poached egg

  1. Fill a 4 QUART POT with cold water, add vinegar and bring to a gentle simmer.
  2. Crack each egg into separate SMALL BOWLS. Begin to create a vortex in the water by vigorously swirling the water around the edge of the pot.
  3. One at a time, slip the eggs into the center of the vortex. As the egg drops into the water, the egg will set into a teardrop shape. Gently, reinvigorate the vortex and repeat with another egg.
  4. After 2 minutes, gently lift out an egg with a slotted spoon and check that the yolk is soft to the touch. If the yolk is too soft, return it to the simmering water.
  5. Once the egg has finished cooking, drain the egg on a paper towel. Use small kitchen scissors to trim off the stringy parts of the egg white.

for serving

  1. Divide the whipped cauliflower into four portions. Top with a mound of the roasted hen of the woods.
  2. Place a poached egg on top of the mushrooms and sprinkle with the thyme leaves, salt and pepper, and serve immediately.