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“Chicken-Fried” Maitake Mushrooms at the Roadhouse

“Magical” Maitake mushroom dishes on the menu for the month!

By Ari Weinzweig

These truly delicious fried mushrooms might be my favorite thing on the menu at the Roadhouse right now. To be clear, there’s no actual chicken involved here. The “chicken-fried” is a reference to the flour in which they’re dredged, the spicing, and the way they’re deep fried. Buttery, meaty, moist maitake mushrooms grown in Northern Michigan, spiced with that totally terrific farm-to-table Tellicherry pepper from Kerala on the west coast of India. Like the Roadhouse’s famous Fried Chicken, the heat from the pepper is prominently present upfront but not overpowering.

The “Chicken-Fried” Mushrooms are showing up on the specials list in two forms this month. One is atop a burger, along with some of the Roadhouse’s signature spicy mayo and the Chipotle Colby cheese that’s made on Kenny Mattingly’s farm in southern Kentucky, Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese. The other is on a “Chicken-Fried” Mushroom Po’ Boy that’s on the lunch menu—a Bakehouse Po’ Boy bun, with a wealth of that same spicy mayo, shredded lettuce, and tomato-red pepper relish, that’s served with our Cajun-spiced fries. Both the burger and the po’ boy are fantastic!

The maitake—aka, hen-of-the-woods—mushrooms are being grown for us up north by the fine folks of a creative company called Mycopia. They’ve been doing a great job for over 40 years, because of which the mushrooms are coming in regularly and they look, and taste, terrific! As they share:

Flavorful forest mushrooms that are “no longer wild, but far from tame.” Our mushrooms are grown on oak-based substrate in reusable bottles. After the mushrooms are harvested, the spent substrate is recycled and turned into compost that is highly prized by local farmers and wineries. Our mushrooms have been certified organic and kosher since 2005.

Maitake are used widely in Chinese medicine, loaded with nutrients, and contribute to immune system health. So there are, it seems, possible health benefits to eating them, though for me, it’s all about how tasty they are. In the wild, maitake can grow to be huge, but Mycopia manages the growth so the mushrooms are harvested at a more manageable size. Because they’re cultivating the maitake so effectively, Mycopia is making it possible for us to get a year-round supply of these great mushrooms, which opens up the door to doing delicious dishes like this one for many months to come. Mycologist Paul Stamets says,

Maitake mushrooms are known in Japan as “the dancing mushroom.” According to a Japanese legend, a group of Buddhist nuns and woodcutters met on a mountain trail, where they discovered a fruiting of maitake mushrooms emerging from the forest floor. Rejoicing at their discovery of this delicious mushroom, they danced to celebrate.

When you taste these “Chicken-Fried” Mushrooms—either on the burger, the po’ boy, or maybe soon as an entrée of their own—I forecast that you will find yourself dancing as well! I know they sure get me going.