As many of you may know, it’s morel season. For those of you who didn’t, morels are small, well camouflaged mushrooms that come up generally in hardwood forests approximately after the red buds have bloomed and the mayapples are up (according to Grandpa). Like last year, and at least for me, all the years before it, we haven’t found any morels. And also, like every year before, we haven’t looked particularly hard either. I’m just not motivated. I’m not personally interested in eating any sort of mushroom, and truthfully I don’t like anyone else in the family eating them either. I’ve never known, or even known someone who knew someone who died from misidentifying a mushroom. Still, why risk death for something that looks like mold and tastes like squish anyway?
Unfortunately for me, and happily for everyone else in the family it seems, the husband is developing a special skill for finding and identifying edible mushrooms. Earlier this year it was oyster mushrooms. They actually look very much like oysters once cooked, taste like rancid fish, and have the texture of eels.
Our most recent mushroom experience has been Chicken of the Woods. It’s supposed to taste just like chicken, something I have heard many times to describe things that taste bad and look weird. Chicken of the Woods is considered a delicacy mushroom, and is different from many other mushroom in that it does not have gills. It typically grows on decaying hardwood and comes in various shades of orange. It is considered primarily a fall mushroom, but can be found year around. I’m not going to get into how to ID it, where to find it, or how to cook it because I really don’t know and I don’t want to kill you. I googled it for five minutes before I started cooking it, and I recommend the same, many people write many things about it.
So last week the husband brought in 16 pounds of Chicken of the Woods. Unlike morels these can be very large. The internet told me I could get away with just washing, chopping, and freezing it so that’s what we did. It looks now like that was probably not the best method optimal preservation, but it’s what happened. If I could do it over again we would sauté it all first and then freeze.
While we washed and chopped I fried some up with butter, salt, and pepper, and it is actually shockingly chicken like. It tasted like butter, salt, and pepper (in other words pleasantly mild), and was white and fibrous like chicken breast. There were definitely pieces that looked exactly like baked chicken breast.
Overall this was the first mushroom success of my life, and I will be learning many more ways to cook it now that I’m sure we’re not all going to die. It isn’t in my opinion better than chicken, but it is definitely better than off brand store bought chicken. We have however since learned that Chicken of the Woods sells for around $15.00/pound. At that price we could have bought a butcher weight hog which, at least to us, seems like the more desirable option. So, if you would be interested in trying some Chicken of the Woods next time we come across some, or you know a buyer, we’d love to hear about it.
Update: So, now that we’ve had all this chicken of the wood to eat through I though I’d come back here and give you a little more wisdom. Do not freeze it like this! It was late so we didn’t have time to research a lot, and there was a lot of mushroom to process so we just put it in bags. In our defense, the internet said we could. It working, it’s not killing anyone, but it hasn’t stored as well as it might. Next time we will definitely sautée it lightly in butter, bacon grease, or whatever we have before freezing it. This would improve the consistency, flavor, and storage life.
Secondly, while it hasn’t killed anyone, it definitely makes me a little sick to eat it. No one else in the family is having this problem, so maybe it’s just in my head. But it definitely makes me more likely to push for selling the next batch we find and using the money to buy real chicken.