Those who know me would not be surprised to learn that I have resorted to mushroom hunting while boating! I found this beautiful Chicken of the Woods (COW) mushroom while I was on Lake… oh… HAHA! you thought I was going to tell you where??? 🙂 I was on “a lake” and took a quick stroll on “an island” (yes, in my swimsuit) when I found this beast! I imagine the nearby boats were a little confused when they saw me carrying this thing over my head, through the water, and back to the boat.
Often when you find COW, you find it in abundance. It is less often, however, that you find it in abundance AND fresh! This mushroom was about 12 pounds and amazingly fresh and juicy! When you find a mushroom like this, find a party to attend and tell them you will bring an appetizer! Otherwise, I freeze it raw in vacuum sealed bags and it keeps very well. Some people prefer sauteing the mushroom slightly (about 30-40% cooked) before freezing. I don’t think it’s worth the extra effort because I think it’s just fine when frozen raw.
COW is a super versatile mushroom and I normally tell people you can use it as a substitute for almost any chicken of the farm recipe. One of the easiest and tastiest ways to cook COW is by turning it into buffalo strips.
Important! Use only extremely fresh COW that is so juicy that it drips when you cut it from the tree or ground. Dry or old COW is gross and can have unwanted creatures inhabiting it.
- Chicken of the Woods Mushroom
- Buffalo Sauce
- Ranch and/or Blue Cheese Dressing
- Celery Sticks
- Preheat oven to 425F
- Tear the chicken into preferred size strips. COW has a similar texture of chicken and tears nicely into strips.
- Put the COW into a glass baking dish and pour your preferred buffalo sauce onto the COW and stir so it is fully coated. I have used Franks Red Hot Sauce and it works great. There is also a Buffalo Sauce version, which is delicious, but has more ingredients than the original Franks (which is only aged Cayenne Red Peppers, Distilled Vinegar, Water, Salt And Garlic Powder).
- Cook the COW uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the mushroom is cooked fully (depends on thickness of strips). Stir occasionally. Feel free to add more sauce if you like it saucy!
NOTE: It is important to cook COW thoroughly as some people can get an upset stomach if undercooked (but don’t overcook it, either!). It’s not as easy as sticking a thermometer in it to tell if it is done. Raw COW is firm, flakey, and solid in color. I consider a COW cooked when the “meat” becomes softer and more flexible and has a slight translucent-ness to it. If you can imagine cooking a regular white button mushroom, and how it changes in color and texture, I’d say it’s the same thing. You just get a feel for it after a while. It’s slightly more complicated with COW because it is picked at different stages, and there are different varieties, but that’s the best I can explain it. As with any wild mushroom, if you have never had it before, restrain yourself and only eat a small amount the first time to see if you have any negative reactions. Also, do not eat COW that grew on a coniferous tree… only deciduous trees.
- Serve the mushroom as you would normal buffalo strips, with a side of blue cheese or ranch dressing and sticks of celery. This is where you have control of how healthy you want this dish to be. I have found healthier versions online, like this one.