To Amuse and Delight

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Foraging Fun: Chicken-of-the-Woods

We went out looking for tree nuts and ended up instead with this lovely Chicken-of-the-Woods mushroom. My husband was the one to spot it, as I tramped right over it! It is also called Sulpher Shelf and it is a favorite foraged mushroom because not only is it very nice to eat, but there are no poison lookalikes. Some folks say it really doesn't taste like chicken, I think it does. The texture is very much like chicken breast. Like tofu it will become whatever you flavor it to be. Really, if you didn't know this was a mushroom, wouldn't you think this sliced up bit is cooked chicken breast? The black and white feather is turkey, found near the mushroom.
Chicken-of-the-Woods grows on trees, logs and roots. Bring a sharp knife, you'll have to slice it off. Look at this color! We found two this size, but some bunches can be huge. It you are lucky enough to come across a giant clump you should cook it at once if you won't be able to eat it all within a couple of days. After it's cooked, freeze it and throw it into soups and stews, rice dishes, casseroles or pasta as you want it. You can also dry it out to store it, but it requires more fat to cook it in to rehydrate. 
The underside ranges from light yellow to white. They are best eaten when they are young and tender. When they get big they are hard and woody. In that case I would just trim off the very tips to eat.
You can bake it, braise it or as I did here, saute it. Since finding this Chicken-of-the-Woods was a surprise treat I had to fit it into my already planned lunch, curried pumpkin soup. We came home from our foraging walk hungry. As the soup was heating up I sauteed the mushroom. Very tasty, like crispy bits of fried chicken.
You will find these mushrooms growing in shady woods and sunny city parks. We found ours on the grounds of Sunnyside, Washington Irving's home. As I've said, there are no poison lookalikes for Chicken-of-the-Woods, so if you are new to mushroom hunting, this is a good one to start with.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Magical Rat Creature

We usually spend Labor Day visiting or being visited by friends or family. Since everyone has the day off work and school it's a good time to get together. B-B-Q and pool time. But this year the weekend leading up to Labor Day was enough socializing for my family. Saturday we went to the NY Ren Faire. My big girl was an elf and my small one was a fairy. (I finished my costume sewing as we walked out the door!) 

On Sunday we had church and then our church's end of summer B-B-Q. We got home late and all agreed that we would stay home alone the following day, even though it was Labor Day. We just wanted to relax by ourselves. I'm so glad we did. We had a great day and my older daughter had a nice long chunk of time to make this magical rat creature.
His name is Thaddeus and he has quite a lot of personality. She used Sculpy clay for his head and feet and made his plush plump body out of fake fur that she picked up at a tag sale.
Thaddeus has a wire in his tail, so he can hang on or even hang upside down. We took him out shopping with us and people kept asking me if he was real!