Stalking Wild Mushrooms: Sautéed Chicken of the Woods
Our neighbor stopped by last night. He had been in the woods and came upon a huge mass of Chicken of the Woods; a wild mushroom usually found growing on the trunks of dead or dying trees. It is one of the more easily recognized and thus safer wild mushrooms to eat with its bright orange top and yellow underside. I had heard about this colorful beauty but had never had the chance to eat one. He said the mass was larger than he could eat by himself and knew we enjoyed trying new things. He assured me that frying it in tons of butter was the best way to eat them. He also told me that once we ate them, we would know how they got their name.
So, delighted with the idea of munching something new, and knowing that we would survive because our neighbor had picked them and we hadn’t, I began cutting and cleaning the mushroom. It is a firm mushroom so it cut nicely. Any woody parts or spots that were brown I tossed into the chicken scrap bucket (I checked with my neighbor if they could eat them raw first, he said they would be okay). The rest of the mushroom went into a large frying pan with 4 tablespoons of butter. Set on medium heat, we cooked the mushrooms for about a half an hour or until they were cook thoroughly and browned on the sides. About half way through the cooking we added about 2 tablespoons of olive oil as they started sticking to the pan.
Well, he was right; they actually have the texture and taste of chicken. I’m not kidding. Think of eating a piece of dry pan fried chicken breast and that is exactly what it was like, perhaps with a slightly woodsy, fungi flavor, but chicken all the same. I had plans of taking a hike in our back woods this weekend. Now I plan on packing a bag or two and keeping my eyes open for the tell-tale sign of bright orange and yellow.