My CSA offered large clumps of wood ear mushrooms for sale last week. They are a fungus that grows off dead and sometimes live trees. My farmer said wood-ears were very hardy and would keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. He recommended slicing the wood-ears and cooking them with onions, garlic and a little white wine. It was a good dish, but the wood ears were a little dry and didn’t have much taste. Most went into the refrigerator as left-overs.
A couple if days later I was faced with the necessity of using up the raw meat from a two chicken legs and thighs (I’d used the breasts from a whole chicken for another meal). The combination inspired this Wood-ear Salad. It was a hit at a dinner party my twenty-one year daughter threw for some friends.
Ingredients for Wood-ear Salad
3 cup coarsely chopped wood-ear mushrooms
2 Medium sized onions
6 to 8 cloves of garlic
1-1 ½ cups ground chicken meat
1 package thin rice noodles
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon mirin
1 -2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce
2 tablespoons of dry sherry
Freshly ground pepper
1/3rd cup white wine.
Preparation for Wood-ear Salad
Saute the chopped onion and three or four cloves of garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil until the onions are translucent (about ten minutes), then add three cups of chopped wood ear.
Cook for five minutes and add a third of a cup of white wine and continue to cook until the wine is mainly absorbed.
Season with fish sauce and freshly ground pepper.
Put the wood-ear dish aside. Make it the day before and eat some just as it is.
Put the rice noodles in a heat proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Let them stand for thirty seconds to a minute and test. As soon as they are no longer hard, plunge them into cold water to cool immediately. Drain, and chop into inch long pieces.
Saute the other chopped onion with the remaining garlic and olive oil.
Add the ground chicken when the onions have turned translucent and cook until almost done (about five minutes).
Add the mirin, fish sauce, sherry and season with freshly ground pepper and salt if needed. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed.
A Note on Wood-ears
They are no longer popular in the West, although once they were used medicinally in Europe, but they remain a favorite in Asia where they are cultivated. They are available around the world and can be cultivated all year around.
In another random notes, I have always been a relatively heavy user of salt, to the consternation of some friends. Now it turns out the worry about salt may be misplaced.