The year we moved into our house, the old oak stump in the back yard produced a welcoming Fall gift: a tender harvest of delicious Laetiporus sulphureus, otherwise known as “chicken of the woods.” This is one of the Foolproof Four: wild American mushrooms that are edible, delicious, and difficult to confuse with anything poisonous (puffballs, chickens, chanterelles, and morels).
After the ecstasy of consuming that year’s crop, I waited eagerly for the Chicken to put in an appearance the following September, but nothing happened. Nor the year after that. And then…
It was as though the Laetiporus fairy, realizing that we mushroom lovers were in dire need of our fix, had left us a gift of pure gold. The Long-Suffering Husband and I have been taking turns processing pounds of the savory shroom for freezing.
All you have to do is slice it thin, sauté it in a small amount of olive oil until it starts to give up its juices (or add some white wine if it’s a bit dry), then freeze in meal-sized portions. It doesn’t really taste like chicken, if you ask me, but it’s similar in texture. It varies in flavor. This year it is mild with a delicate savor and a slight sweetness. A bit like crabmeat, but with a hint of maple.
It makes a great substitute for chicken in most recipes, but you shouldn’t overcook it in dry heat. It can be deep-fried, but like eggplant, it will absorb as much oil as you give it. Most aficionados recommend delicate cream sauces. It’s a knockout in an alfredo-type sauce with a Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc.
Some people have a sensitivity to the Chicken, so it’s best to begin by using some as a garnish and seeing if it affects you. They must be eaten cooked, not raw, to minimize any chance of stomach discomforts. Also, it is said that one should avoid Chickens growing on conifers or eucalyptus. We’ve never encountered any problems with ours. Now if only some morels would start growing on that stump…
Visit here for an amazing photo gallery of edible and poisonous mushrooms in Sussex, England.