Sicilian Chicken of the WoodsAug 31, 2021 ● By Alan Bergo
Alan Bergo, ForagerChef.com
Here is a traditional Italian preparation for chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus or Laetiporus cincinnatus), flavored with wild monarda leaves and served with charred bread rubbed with garlic.
yield: 4 to 6 servings
1 lb young tender chicken of the woods, sliced ¼- to ½-inch thick
1 large clove garlic
¼ cup mild or extra-virgin olive oil mixed with flavorless oil, like grapeseed (plus 1 or 2 Tbsp extra if the pan threatens to dry out), along with a drizzle at the end
1 large shallot or small yellow onion
1 Tbsp sliced Monarda fistulosa (also known as bee balm or wild bergamot) or fresh mint or oregano
Crushed red pepper flakes or hot chili to taste
1 Tbsp capers or a small handful of Castelvetrano olives (or other green olives)
2 dried bay leaves
¼ cup dry white wine
¼ cup water or stock
1½ cups seedless tomato puree or tomato sauce
Grilled high-quality bread, preferably slightly charred, for serving
2 whole fresh garlic cloves as needed for rubbing into the bread
Heat the oil in a wide pan with high sides. A cast iron skillet will work, but isn’t ideal as the sauce is acidic.
Add the mushrooms and cook until they’ve given up their moisture, then push them to the side of the pan, add a little extra oil if the pan looks dry, or if the mushrooms were very juicy. Add the garlic to the clean spot of the pan, then arrange the pan off-center on the burner so that the heat is focused on the garlic.
Sweat the garlic in the oil slowly until it’s light golden and aromatic, then add the shallots and cook for 1 minute.
Add the crushed red pepper directly to the garlic and shallot, cook for a moment more, then deglaze the pan with the wine, tossing in the bay leaf. Reduce the sauce by one half, then add the tomato puree, water, capers or olives, bergamot or other herbs and cook until the mixture is thickened lightly and the mushrooms are coated with a rich sauce, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, lightly oil the bread and char on a grill. It should have good black spots, but not be ashy. Rub a garlic clove gently into the toasted bread slices, pressing down so that it “melts” into the bread a bit—don’t go crazy, a little goes a long way.
Double check the seasoning of the mushrooms for salt and chili, adjust as needed, then serve the stewed mushrooms with the grilled garlic bread on the side. Drizzle some oil over the top to give the dish an attractive sheen.
Spoon the mushrooms and their sauce on the bread and eat. Leftovers make killer mushroom hoagies a la cheesy meatball sub sandwiches.
Sicilian Chicken of the Woods recipe from Alan Bergo.
More Mushroom DelightsWild mushrooms are a culinary delight, but beginning foragers should harvest with caution. The forager’s rule of thumb is to be 100 percent sure of an identification 100 percent of the time given that toxic lookalikes can exist. It’s also important to try a small amount of a mushroom the first time around, as some individuals can respond adversely to a particular species despite its general edibility.