Hen of the woods or maitake sings in this dish. I wish that I could say that I found it whilst out foraging. And I do forage. But this one came as part of a wild food box scheme that I subscribed to on a fortnightly basis until I just couldn’t eat any more sea purslane or foraged sea greens. It took a few months before I came to the realisation that I can’t eat the same foraged ingredients on such a regular basis. And I don’t fully appreciate them when I haven’t schlepped through mud and rain to find them. Sea purslane is delicious but I just can’t eat it on such a regular basis.
This meal came about because I found hen of the woods in my wild food box and romaine lettuce in my regular veg box. Like the most famous US salad that was actually invented in Mexico by an Italian immigrant (specifically which one of a possible three Italian immigrants is contested), was improvised.
It is suggested that anchovies weren’t used in the original recipe, but I had some and added them to the dressing. I think it needs them for that salty hit. I used a rye loaf for the croutons. It gave the salad an earthy sweetness and I think a lighter bread would have worked better. The hen of the woods is the best chicken replacement – light, mild, meaty umami flavour that isn’t overwhelmed by the dressing.
For the dressing
1 clove garlic, minced
5 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp lemon juice
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
1tsp Dijon mustard
40g parmesan, grated
¼ loaf of crusty bread, broken into bite-sized chunks
1 romaine or cos lettuce
In a bowl, whisk together the anchovies, garlic, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce.
Add 30g of the parmesan, mayonnaise, a grind of pepper and taste before adding any salt. Mix well.
For the croutons, pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees. Tear the bread into chunks and toss in olive oil. Place on a baking tray and place in the oven for around ten minutes.
Add a splash of olive oil to a pan on medium high heat and add the hen of the woods, or chicken. Cook for two minutes on each side.
In a bowl, place the washed romaine or cos leaves. Scatter the hen of the woods or chicken and the croutons and drizzle with the dressing finishing it off with a grating or shaving of the remainder of the cheese.