Thursday, June 6, 2019

Wild Mushrooms for Dinner: Spicy Chicken (Mushroom) Patties on Steamed Buns

When we teach edible mushroom classes, we praise the chicken mushroom (Laetiporus sulphureus, L. cincinnatus) as a very good edible mushroom. It's not so much that the mushroom tastes like chicken, but its texture mimics meat in a satisfactory way. We find that the chicken mushroom can be one of the most versatile wild fungi when it comes to making meals, standing in for meat in many cases or just being used on its own. Another reason we like it so much is that chicken mushrooms can fruit in spring, summer, or in the fall, giving us many opportunities to utilize this mushroom in different preparations. With this week's spring chicken find, I ground some in the food processor to make spicy patties with rice, scallions, garlic, chopped nettles, and hot spices. We served the patties in steamed buns with some gochujang sauce, fresh radishes from our farm share, and cilantro.

white chicken
It's very important that the chicken is collected in good condition, when it is still young or tender. Coming upon an old chicken mushroom can be disappointing, but you should never be tempted to use it anyway--it will be like eating sawdust. Ideally, you want the flesh to ooze yellow or milky juice when cut into, the colors to be bright, and the fronds to be bug-free. Sometimes the overall mushroom can be very, very large, or just a few fronds on the side of a tree. This fungus starts out looking like spray foam on the tree, before it shelves out. You will find the yellow chicken mushroom growing from the trunk of a dead or dying tree, as it is a heartwood rotter. The white chickens are found at the bases of dead or dying trees, as they rot the butt wood. Chicken mushrooms are polypores, which means there are "many pores" on the undersides of the fronds, although you may need to use magnification to see the small pores. 

When we find an excessive amount of chicken mushroom, we cook it and freeze the cooked parts in vacuum packed bags. Dehydration is not ideal for this fungus, as it becomes woody and does not rehydrate well because the context of this polypore is constructed of skeletal hyphae which harden into a dense substance when dried. Sometimes large finds end up in a recipe and brought to a weekend foray to share for lunch. We also make and freeze many vegan "sausages" made with ground chicken mushrooms, gluten, and seasonings to use all year long. You can find a list of some of our recipes using chicken mushrooms here.

#chickenmushroom #wildmushrooms #foraging

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