Laetiporus sulphureus

The sulfur shelf, or chicken of the woods, has become a culinary favorite at my house. It's a very easy mushroom to identify, and it has no look-alikes that can hurt you. It's a polypore, which means it has no gills, but rather a mat of pores under each shelf that hold the spores. The pores of Laetiporus sulphureus are bright day-glow yellow, and the cap is a duller yellow-orange to red-orange. The raw flesh smells and tastes a bit sour. It grows to huge proportions, at the base of older trees or from cut stumps, after the very first rains of Autumn. In California it favors eucalyptus, reliably enough that you can return to the same trees every Autumn and harvest it like a farmer.

Young samples of sulfur shelf have a softer, more mushroomy consistency when cooked. Mature specimens are a bit tougher and require longer cooking, but have a texture that comes very close to chicken breast. You can sautée it for about 10 minutes in herbs and a little broth to deepen its tart flavor, turning up the heat towards the end to sear the outside a bit, then use it in any dish that calls for chicken. The resemblance is truly astonishing.

Here are some recipes using "chicken of the woods":