Let me just start by saying that this was quite a treat for us. We were walking in a familiar area when Robert noticed a bit of bright orange on a tree. We are not very familiar or comfortable with mushrooms, but still like to look at them and take pictures for future identifications. This mushroom, however, he recognized as a chicken mushroom, or sulfur shelf (Laetiporus sulphureus), or chicken mushroom. Last year we had found a few that were too old to eat, and we researched them in hopes of recognizing a fresh one in the future. We still took precautions and spore printed the mushroom and asked that it be verified by David Fischer before we tried to eat it.
Sulfur shelf grows in shelf-like clusters on trees, stumps or logs, and it is important to know what kind of wood it is growing on. Although there are no poisonous look-alikes, some trees like Eucalyptus, hemlock, or honey locust will produce harmful sulfur shelf mushrooms. There is no stalk or stem. The top of the mushroom is bright orange and the underside is yellow. The underside is covered with tiny pores that will make a white spore print. The outer edges are thinner than the base attached to the wood, and wrinkled. When fresh like this specimen was, the mushroom will drip moisture when cut into.
Robert and Gillian gathered the few low clusters from the dead deciduous tree, but when he walked around the backside, we were stunned to find an enormous cluster. Overall, we got about 40 pounds of moist, young mushroom off this tree. Chicken mushroom tends to fruit again in the same place for a few years, so we will be back often to look for more.
Robert separated the clusters to clean the mushroom of a few bugs and debris, and proceeded to process this monster. He sliced up enough to fill the dehydrator completely. These slices will be used to make soups in winter. He chopped up enough to put 8 pint containers into the freezer for future recipes. Then we made a cheddar biscuit-topped pot pie, deep fried "chicken", and a coconut-mushroom soup this past week. The texture is very comparable to cooked chicken breast chunks, although the taste is mildly mushroomy.
"Chicken" Mushroom Pot Pie topped with Cheddar Biscuits
makes one 10"pie
5 Tbsp butter or oil
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
12 ramps bulbs, cleaned and chopped (or a small onion)
2 c. coarsely chopped sulfur shelf mushroom
4 Tbsp flour
up to 3 c. vegetable broth
salt and pepper
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1/4 c. chopped ramps greens (or scallions)
1. Heat the butter or oil in a large skillet. Sautée the ramps bulbs, carrot and celery until translucent. Add the chopped mushroom and cook until the juices have rendered.
2. Add the flour and cook 1 minute, until lightly browned.
3. Slowly add the broth, whisking to prevent lumps. Add enough broth to make a thick gravy, whisk in the Dijon mustard and sherry vinegar and then simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper, and gently stir in the ramps greens. Pour into a greased pie plate.
2 1/2 c. flour
2 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
6 Tbsp cold butter
1 c. buttermilk
1. Heat the oven to 425°F.
2. Mix the dry ingredients with the cheddar cheese. Cut in the butter until small pieces remain.
3. Add the buttermilk and mix as little as possible. Fold the dough over itself twice in the bowl before turning it out onto a floured surface.
4. Roll the biscuit dough to 1/2" thick and cut out 2" rounds. Place the rounds around the edges of the pie plate, leaving a bit of the center exposed. There will be extra biscuit dough for some plain biscuits, so cut those out to cook on a separate sheetpan.
5. Bake for 12-17 minutes, until the biscuit topping is browned and the filling is bubbly.