Since learning how to forage mushrooms while living in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, I have become quite the little avid mushroom hunter. Living in the Midwest has opened up a larger world of mycology and interesting mushroom varieties to examine, taste, and research.
On my latest mushroom quest, we stumbled upon an awesome patch of Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus sulphureus, that was hanging out under a fallen down oak tree in Southern Wisconsin in mid-October.
Chicken of the woods is one of the safest, widely available mushroom, referred to by David Arora (Mushrooms Demystified) as one of the “foolproof four”.
The top surface of Chicken of the Woods is bright orange but, as they age, will dull to yellow or even white, developing a more sour flavor with time. This mushroom has no gills, but its bright yellow undersurface is covered with tiny pores. Chicken of the Woods, given their name due to their roughly chicken-flavored taste and texture, are parasitic, decomposing or infecting living trees. They begin fruiting in the beginning of the summer and can continue to be found throughout the fall.
To harvest, slice close to the base of the mushroom and come back later in the season or the following year for another crop!
As always, never eat any mushrooms you have foraged unless you are entirely certain it is edible. We experimented with a few recipes, but none were blog-worthy.
2 cups sliced chicken of the woods mushrooms
1/4-1/2 cup stock (any kind will do)
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste
To prepare, rinse off extra dirt and pull out any grass that has grown through the mushroom, using as little water as possible in the process. Slice in thin strips moving towards the base.
Heat up a cast iron skillet with oil on medium/high heat, adding mushrooms and cooking until starting to become tender, about 6 minutes. Add some salt and pepper. About six minutes in, add butter and minced garlic. Cook until fragrant, then deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup broth.
Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook another 6 minutes, until mushrooms are flavorful and dense. Add more broth if necessary.
Note, the smaller, crispy chunks of mushroom absorbed the most flavor, and tasted the best, so I recommend slicing mushroom pretty thin (1/4 slices). Experiment with sizing and see which you like best!
Will have to go back next year and experiment with a few more recipes…and take pictures rather than just eating it out of the pan!