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From Wisconsin - America's Dairyland
"Blessed are the cheesemakers" ~ Monty Python
Chicken of the Woods Mushroom
Being a cheese lover, you may also love eating and cooking with mushrooms. One particular mushroom, excellent in dishes with cheese is called Chicken of the Woods. When picked fresh, it is very tender and oozes yellowish liquid. It actually smells like chicken. Also known as Sulphur Shelf, due to its bright orange-reddish color. Laetiporus sulphureus is the scientific name of the species of this fungus. Here in Wisconsin, it grows on recently dead large oak trees. This species picked in some western states which can grow on trees other than oak can be quite poisonous. The specimen in the photos here has fruiting bodies* sprouting from the stump and later in the season will fruit additional mushrooms from the fallen part of this oak tree. Even in a dry period, this mushroom will fruit since it is drawing moisture from parts of the tree underground. It will usually grow to a mature state in less than one week and it should be picked fresh and consumed fresh or processed for later consumption. It is considered a choice, safe fungi to eat, yet some folks have some minor upset stomach from it. Even store bought mushrooms can cause minor gastric upset in some people. Before consuming any mushroom, talk to a local mycological club.
*fruiting bodies are the parts of the mushroom organism usually found above ground. With some species, the underground organism or mycelium can take up a lot of underground space with its thin threadlike parts reaching out to gain moisture.
Preparing this mushroom
To prepare this mushroom before cooking, brush off any debris and bugs. If the texture of the specimen is very dry and woody near where it was cut from the tree, discard this part. It is rather tough. You want to cook the tender sections. Using a sharp knife, cut the mushroom in thin (1/16-1/18th inch) slices. With a large fry pan heated to medium, add some butter and or olive oil and saute for a few minutes or until the mushroom is tender.. Add a little low sodium chicken stock or plain water. Unlike other mushrooms, this one needs a fair amount of moisture while cooking. It does not taste good well done. Add some heavy cream or milk. Reduce for a few minutes on medium heat. Add a little Camembert, Brie or Gruyre cheese or any hard cheese you have around. Do not use cheddar. The white cheeses will add some thickening and flavor to the dish. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper. If you wish to thicken more, make a rue and add this to the pan. Add some fresh Thyme and cook for a few more minutes. Reduce heat. Pour thickened mixture over pasta.
Disclaimer: Never, ever, ever eat any mushroom that you have found without first speaking with a mycologist and confirming that the mushroom is safe to eat.. Eating wild mushrooms can make you sick or cause you to die.