Marinated Chicken of the Woods

Marinated Chicken of the Woods mushrooms are tangy, salty, meaty morsels that are fabulous additions to charcuterie platters, salads, and simple turkey and cheese sandwiches. Our family loves them. When we are out foraging for fall mushrooms, this is the food I’m craving the most.

Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus S. is a mildly flavored fungus that is very similar in texture to grilled chicken breast. It can be enjoyed cooked in many dishes as a chicken substitute. But, this recipe takes them far from the role of “chicken substitute.” Their hefty and meaty texture makes Laetiporus ideal for pickling or marinating. When marinated, they soak up the flavors of herbs and spices, adding just a hint of earthiness to the oil that covers them.

When we found our first Chicken several years ago, my smart and delicious man decided we should try to pickle them; and, then, he came across a recipe for Italian Marinated Mushrooms. I must give credit to the Hunter Angler Gardener Cook (Hank Shaw) for sharing the method and basic recipe that we have used for years to make this delicious food. In his recipe he used beautiful porcini, but he did mention that Chicken of the Woods might work out instead. So, thank you, Hank Shaw, for the inspiration. And, thank you, Alex, for finding the recipe years ago.  We have stuck with the method and made some changes to adapt the recipe to use our lovely Latiporous.

The taste of these marinated mushrooms is truly unique. Thyme, Oregeno, and  Lemon zest accent the mild flavor of the Chicken of the Woods resulting in a bright and tangy flavor that is far from what is expected of mushrooms in a jar. When they are finely chopped and added to salads, these marinated mushrooms are very similar to herbed feta. They would be great on a Muffaletta or in pasta salad. While typing this post, I just enjoyed them on a sandwich and had them with cheese and salami on crackers, as well (needed to ensure adequate description of the flavor and because I love them!).

The method used to preserve these mushrooms is an old Italian method that has been used for hundreds of years. Salting, acidifying, and oiling fungus that is packed in a jar is not approved by the government as a safe for long term storage. How long could they last preserved this way? If you asked an old Italian Nonna, you might be told that they would last years. However,  I really don’t know how long they could last,  because we eat ours pretty quickly. The Marinated Chicken of the Woods are beautiful and might look lovely sitting on a shelf; but, they should be eaten within a few weeks or stored in the fridge and brought back to room temperature when needed. These jarred mushrooms make great gifts that should probably be reserved for the people you love the most. Just be sure to let them know that they are not processed for long term storage.

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Ingredients

  • 3-5 lbs Chicken of the woods
  • 2 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 cups White vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • Plenty of Kosher salt or sea salt
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Garlic, 1-2 cloves for each jar
  • Lemon zest from 3 lemons
  • Red pepper flakes or dried cayenne peppers
  • Capers, optional
  • Olive Oil, enough to fill all jars (approximately 2-3 cups)

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Directions

  • Cut Chicken of the woods into manageable pieces and thoroughly clean with as little water as possible. A small paintbrush is helpful for removing debris. Remove any tough and fibrous portions, and save only the tender sections. If the foraged specimen is young enough, there may not be any tough sections to remove.
  • Cut the tender sections of the chicken into chicken strips. Yes, that’s right “chicken strips,” approximately 1/4″ in thickness. You could cut lovely little fans from thinner Chicken of the Woods. But, for the chunkier pieces, just go with strips.
  • Dry the pieces with paper towels to remove as much water as possible.
  • Cover the surface of a sheet pan with kosher or sea salt and lay the cut pieces on the bed of salt. Sprinkle another layer of salt on top. Don’t worry, all of this salt is not going to be in the finished product. Be generous and pour it on.
  • Let the salted strips sit in the salt for 1-2 hours. Ours have gone as long as 4 hours. The salt will pull moisture from the pores of the mushrooms, which looks pretty neat.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • After the chicken has rested 1-2 hours on the salt bed of salt, the pieces will be boiled in vinegar.
  • Bring 4 cups vinegar to a boil. We use 2 cups ACV and 2 cups white vinegar with 3 Tablespoons Balsamic added just for flavor. If you are making a larger batch, just make sure there is enough vinegar for the mushrooms to all be covered.
  • Lightly press the cut pieces of Chicken of the Woods with a paper towel to remove the water that has been pulled out by the salt. Then shake the pieces in a wire colander to remove most of the salt.
  • Drop the pieces in the boiling vinegar and boil for 5 minutes. Work in small batches, only boiling as many pieces as you can at one time to keep them submerged. The last batches will be slightly saltier than the first. The saltier ones are my favorites!
  • After the pieces have all been boiled and drained, pack them into sterilized glass jars with zest, herbs, and spices. Add at least 2-3 long slices of lemon zest, 1-2 cloves of garlic, several sprigs of thyme, and a bit of oregano to each jar. Be generous with the herbs. For each 1/2 pint jar, add 1/2 teaspoon or more red pepper flakes or add 1-2 dried cayenne peppers depending on your heat preference. I like to add 1 teaspoon of capers to each jar as well mostly for looks, but they are also nice additions to our salads.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Fill the packed jars with olive oil until all ingredients are covered.
  • Place lids on jars and let them sit for 24-48 hours before tasting. The longer they sit, the stronger the flavors will become.

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