Chicken in the woods is a bracket fungus. I found this one at the base of an oak tree and over the last few days I have been experimenting with different ways to use it. Initially just very simply cooked in freshly made butter, then with sorrel and finally today using tomatoes and ham hock. I would not normally use such a strong flavour as smoked ham hock with a delicate fungus but the ham was left over from yesterday and the contrast of textures and the fact that the fungus is now older and a bit more robust in flavour worked well.
Chicken in the woods has a soft almost velveteen surface and colours of sulphur and satsuma no wonder that the Latin name is Laetiporus sulphureus. When sliced the appearance is every bit that of sliced corn-fed chicken breast.
After slicing I poach the fungus slices in water for a few minutes as recommended by Ian Burrows in his excellent book, Food from the Wild. I then drain and fry off in a little butter and rapeseed oil, this intensifies the colour and ensures that the fungus is thoroughly cooked. Then simply adding the ham chunks and tomatoes and cooking until all is soft and amalgamated. A little pepper, and job done. The finished result is not an artistic dish but it is a spectacular colour.
As always if you have not used chicken in the woods before only try a very small amount the first time. It must be cooked through and should not be taken from yew trees.
With all fungi it is recommended that you cross reference different books. In this case I used:
Food from the Wild – Ian Burrows
Wild food for free – Jonathan Hilton
River Cottage Handbook No 1 – Mushrooms – John Wright