Chicken of the Woods

July 24, 2008

I’m thankful for many of the things my dad and nonno taught me growing up but one of my favorites is hunting for wild mushrooms. I also love the fact that E loves it too. I think it’s a combination of being in the woods and the fact that I’ve always been fascinated with finding hidden treasure (it would be nice if it were in the form of gold or cash but wild mushrooms will do) not to mention, they taste GREAT.

It’s a great time of year for what my family always referred to as “Nassa” growing up, which for us is basically any mushroom that grows from or around the base of a tree. The correct layman name for this orange beauty is “Chicken of the Woods” not to be confused with its partner in crime that usually gets a later start (September) called, “Hen of the Woods” among other names. I’ll post about that once when I find the first one of the year.

It’s really hard to mistake “Chicken of the Woods” for another wild mushroom but PLEASE do not eat anything you are unsure of.

It has been a great year for “Chicken of the Woods” so far and this is our favorite way to cook it.
What you’ll need:

  • olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 cups of tomato sauce
  • salt, pepper and other seasonings of your choice
  • splash of heavy cream (optional)

A good “Chicken of the Woods” is soft and tender. If the mushroom is in it’s later stages of growth it will be hard and woody. You may still be able to use the tips of the mushroom as the tips are usually softer but a really good one will be soft and tender throughout.

After cleaning the mushroom thoroughly, you should be able to tear it into small pieces with your hands. If you’re able to do this, the mushroom should be tender enough to eat.

Once you’re done pulling or cutting your “Chicken of the Woods” into small pieces, place it a frying pan with a little olive oil and garlic and fry it for 10-15 minutes on medium heat. (The mushroom will turn a beautiful dark orange color.) Add your tomato sauce, season well and let it simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes. You can also add a splash of cream if you want (we usually do) for a richer taste. Serve as an appetizer with some bread or as a side dish. Enjoy and buon appetito!

9 Responses to “Chicken of the Woods”

  1. casalba Says:

    This is the sort of thing I’d love to do, but am too scared to do.

    (They run a course near here on mushroom identification – you are giving me the inspiration to do it one day.)

    PS Your recipe sounds delicious.

  2. Maria from Philly Says:

    This is my mom’s favorite thing to do. When she takes her walks she’s always on a mission to find these beauties, bring them home and either fry them up or cook them the way you just said and they are DELICIOUS. Too bad my mom is allergic to them though which always upsets her as she’s making them for us.

  3. 'A Tuscan view.....from Umbria' Says:

    Oh wow! I so want you and E to come here and teach me to find the ‘Chicken of the Woods’. There must be a whole flock of them lurking in the woods around here. I often see a crafty looking old guy sniffing about in the early morning. I know that’s what he’s up to but he’s far to secretive to approach.

    Great recipe, I bet Porcini would be good cooked this way too.
    Amanda:)

  4. joe@italyville.com Says:

    Thanks Sally, it makes us get out into the woods more often, which we love.

    Man Maria! I can’t believe she is allergic! that stinks.

    I bet there is a whole flock around you Amanda…. by the way, the 1st rule is to never tell where you find them because they usually grow there year after year:) That old guy sounds suspicious to me.

  5. Barbara Gallo Farrell Says:

    What a wonderful post, Joe. I would love a taste of your Chicken in the Woods.

    You’re right; you have to be soooo careful hunting wild mushrooms — one bite could prove fatal. We had friends who knew what they were doing and it was always fun when they came to visit. We would take a walk in the woods and come back with a bounty.

    Another friend swears that morels grow under the same tree in her yard, year after year.

    Me, I’ll let the pros do the hunting and just enjoy them when I can. And I can drool over your wonderful recipe!

  6. Darius T. Williams Says:

    You know – as much of a foodie as I am – I can’t stand mushrooms. I just don’t like the things. They look gross and taste even worse. Sorry – lol…I love other foods though to make up for my dislike of the ‘shrooms.

    -DTW
    http://www.everydaycookin.blogspot.com

  7. Bella Baita View Says:

    These look delish.I’ve never had them. Around here it’s porcini or forget it, but I will try any that I have been assured that they are safe. Ciao Joe

  8. Tim Stratton Says:

    Great, now you got me salivating.

  9. joe@italyville.com Says:

    Barbara, I never had any luck finding morels but they have a loyal following and I hear they are delicious.

    Darius… a foodie like you!? more for me:)

    Marla, I wish we had those porcini here!

    Tim, thanks for stopping by… they are delicious.


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