Free from the Forest: Chicken of the Woods

Polyporus Sulphureus, otherwise known as “Chicken of the Woods,” is a beautiful fungus that frequently grows on oaks during the late summer and autumn. Its bright orange coloring gives it away, and to discover a clump of this brightly colored mushroom, which can sometimes weigh twenty pounds or more, is to discover the makings for a delicious meal. For Chicken of the Woods is one of the tastiest (yes, it really does taste like chicken) and most easily identifiable mushrooms around.

Here’s a recipe from William Hamilton Gibson’s Our Edible Toadstools and Mushrooms and How to Distinguish Them (1895) for fried mushrooms on toast. Since Chicken of the Woods has the flavor and texture of meat, it makes for a very savory and satisfying meal. Be sure to use only the freshest specimens; the mushrooms should be soft and flexible.

Fried Chicken of the Woods on Toast

Place a pint of mushrooms [or 1/2 pound of Chicken of the Woods] in a pan with a piece of butter about the size of an egg. Sprinkle in a teaspoonful of salt and half a teaspoonful of pepper. When the butter is nearly absorbed, thicken with fresh butter and flour and pour upon hot toast, which should be served hot.

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