“You’ve got to be sh**ing me!” Coming from someone who very rarely swears, the words were amusing, and I couldn’t help but laugh. My mother-in-law had just taken her first bite of Chicken of the Woods, but she hadn’t known that’s what it was. She’s a person who typically hears the word mushroom and makes a face.
Often, when someone tells me they don’t like mushrooms, I tell them I doubt they’ve tried enough of a variety to accurately say that. With my mother-in-law in particular, we’d been telling her for ages that she’d probably like Chicken of the Woods. We just hadn’t had a chance to prove it. Once we finally found some, my husband cooked it up in a seasoned broth until that was almost completely evaporated, then sauteed in butter with some bacon bits. It was seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, and sazon.
Our daughters had watched him cook it, and were skeptical since they knew it was a mushroom. We convinced them to try it, however, and they all thought it was delicious and tasted a lot like real chicken. The real test was when we brought it to my mother-in-law. Leaving off the “of the Woods” part, we asked her if she wanted to try the chicken he had made. She was wary, suspecting us of some trickery, but tried it. After she told him it was delicious, we asked her to try to guess the secret ingredient, but she was stumped. So, we asked her to list what she knew for sure was in it.
“Chicken” was her first item listed, then the bacon bits and butter. She didn’t get much further than that, however. Grinning slyly, my husband told her there was no chicken in the bowl. To say she was surprised would be a huge understatement, as the quote above demonstrates.
She was extremely shocked when she realized she had just eaten a mushroom, but she ended up taking the bowl; eating all of it that we had brought down. The whole time she was eating it she kept repeating how impressed she was.
Chicken of the Woods, scientifically Laetiporus sulphureus, grows mostly on trees, especially oak. While it’s one of the most popular edible mushrooms, attempts to cultivate it on substrates most gourmet mushrooms are grown on have been largely unsuccessful due to the instability of the mycelium. Some people have had luck inoculating stumps and large logs, however.
It is easily identifiable by its bright orange coloring, and with a yellow underside. There two semi-common look alikes: the bright red Cinnabar Polypore, and the dull orange Hapalopilus Nidulans. Neither of these are really poisonous, but they aren’t good to eat, either. The coloring is a large way to make sure you have the right mushroom. The colors on Chicken of the Woods are bright orange on top and yellow on bottom.
Chicken of the Woods will last up to a week in the fridge, or frozen for longer, but using it fresh seems to be best in my opinion. After a few days of storage, the chicken taste isn’t as strong and it starts to soften, losing the chicken-esque texture.
Once we knew the test recipe was a success, we decided to make a full meal. I took roughly two cups of chopped Chicken of the Woods and boiled it in some leftover broth from some shredded chicken we had had for lunch with some water, sazon, garlic, and salt added in. Once the liquid had boiled out I added butter and bacon bits and sauteed it. I also added some grated smoked cheese, milk, parmesan, and more cheese to make a cheese sauce. I boiled two boxes of shells, and when they were drained I added them into the mix.
Saying “It tastes like chicken” has become such a cliche, but in the case of Chicken of the Woods, if it’s cooked right, it’s actually true. If you’ve had Chicken of the Woods, do you agree? Feel free to share your favorite Chicken of the Woods recipes below.
2 cups Chicken of the woods, cut into 1 inch cubes
Broth of choice, enough to cover mushrooms completely
½ cup bacon bits
1 stick butter
¾ cup milk
1 cup your choice of cheese
2 boxes shells
Season to taste