Chicken of the Woods

We woke up and knew that we had to find mushrooms. Nineteen people were coming for dinner and we wanted to serve Black Cod with Beet (Greens) and Wild Mushrooms. We jumped in the car and started to head over to the Arlington Farmers market when we decided to check one of my favorite mushroom spots.

The woods are where I run and where I find mushrooms this time of year. Chicken of the Woods, Puffballs and Wild Oysters are just some of the varieties I find. On this morning when we walked into the woods and turned the bend in the path we saw a huge felled tree all a blaze with yellow and orange mushrooms.

Chicken of the Woods is a tricky mushroom. That is to say you need to find them before they become to dry on the log. Just right is when they are moist with the texture and bounce of cooked chicken. Even after cooking they have the texture of (over) cooked chicken with an intense woody mushroom flavor.

Black Cod has a buttery flavor and if cooked properly needs no sauce. We try to not season the fish too much in order to have the flavor resonate with what ever we are serving it with. By not using sauce with a fish like Black Cod one runs the risk of a seemingly over-prosaic dish. Fortunate for us we have diners that encourage the simpleness of dishes. Eaters who privilege complexity as always already flavors present in pure ingredients. (Especially when serving excellent wine–competition is not the point)

Really I think as chefs what we offer more than anything is the ability to think food and combinations of different ingredients as triggers that combine and contrast. Discovering and experimenting for us is not radical constructions of what we can or cannot do. Creating for us is a loose understanding of the arrangement and acting in a way that highlights the differences in ingredients whether they are textures, flavors or temperatures. Here is where we find combinations and how we can set difference next to difference and mine the in between spaces.

All of cooking is really logistics and how to get from one thing to the next at the perfect time. Flavors work the same way and style is really how we get from one flavor to the next. That is to say to enjoy the space (the taste or the flavor) between the Black Cod and the Beets and the Beet Greens and the Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms. Sauces sometimes tie things together or present dishes as seamless. Seamless-ness misses the differences or flavors and their ability to bounce off each other in their differences. We want diners to experience the combinations of difference–the encounter of foods on the eaters’ own terms…