Chicken of the Woods is one of those treasures of a wild mushroom hunt. Its tasty, easy to identify and there is a lot of eating on them when you do stumble across one. It gets its name from its chicken like taste and texture, and not in the usual way every protein of an unknown origin 'tastes like chicken', this mushroom really does.
Identifying the Chicken of the Woods:
When identifying mushrooms, always check with at least 2 sources before ingesting. If you have doubts, don't eat them. Even mushrooms that may be considered safe to eat, can still cause poor reactions in some people, so be aware. Also the general advice is to always ensure that your mushrooms are well-cooked before eating as this helps to neutralise any potential toxins.
Chicken of the Woods is one of those mushrooms that once you identify it clearly the first time, its hard to mistake for anything else. In the UK at least, there are very few mushrooms that can be confused with it and those that can, the Dryads Saddle or the Blackening Polypore, are both safe to ingest (and really don't look much like it any way). It is a bracket fungus that grows mostly on oak trees, but can be found on other hardwood and yew trees, so will be found without a stem, growing in a clump off of a tree or stump and it does not have gills. As a young mushroom, it starts off apricot in colour and then fades to white as it ages. Like most mushrooms it is best eaten fresh and can be frozen, but this does change the texture.
Fresh, my go to recipe is the same for all wild mushrooms, fry in lots of butter with garlic and finish with a bit of creme and thyme. However, you an harness that chicken-like nature and use it in recipes that call for chicken. We've made tacos, stir fry and pasta with our mushrooms and all were lovely.
This recipe for fried chicken of the woods was inspired my my friend Jeni who loves to batter and fry all the things. I simply brought my love of fried chicken to the mix and even the kids couldn't get enough.
1 large section of Chicken of the Wood Mushroom (about 1kg)
- 920ml/ (4 US cups) water
- 3T salt
- 240g (2 US cups) of plain flour
- 2 eggs
- 230ml (1 US cup) of ale
- 2 cups of crushed corn flakes (if you want to substitute bread crumbs here, do, but corn flakes really do give a superior crispiness to the batter).
- 1t smoked paprika
- 1/2 t black pepper
- 1t salt
- vegetable oil for frying
- Clean the mushroom, ensuring you remove all tree bark from the mushroom, especially if it was found on a yew tree.
- Cut off any dry or flaking bits at the edges and slice into pieces roughly 1cm thick.
- Mix up the brine and let the pieces soak for about 5 minutes while you mix up the batter.
- Add all the ingredients for the batter to a bowl, except the corn flakes. Mix into a smooth, thick batter.
- Crush the cornflakes and place in a shallow pan.
- Remove the mushrooms from the brine and pat dry. Dunk each piece individually into the batter, then coat with bread crumbs.
- Heat about 1cm of oil in a frying pan. Working in small batches, lightly fry off the breaded mushrooms, roughly 2 minutes each side to seal.
- Once browned, place mushrooms on a tray and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes at 180c/360F
- Serve with garlic mayo or in a wrap or taco.
Upcoming Foraging Workshops at Gartur Stitch Farm