Summer mushroom season has started here in Minnesota, and the chicken of the woods / sulphur shelves have started to appear. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again though, you need to find them young, as in as young as possible. If you find some growing and leave them, hoping to come back and double the size of your hall, all you’re doing is giving the mushrooms more time to be eaten by bugs, and grow woody in the process.
When just emerging from a tree or some buried wood, they’re tender and juicy. If you catch them young enough too, they’ll bleed a fragrant orange juice all over as you cut them from the tree-a sign of a good find, and one that’ll stain your hands and clothes if you’re not careful.
With my first chickens of the year, I did a little play on their chicken-y texture by smothering a chicken breast with them after I seared them in duck fat add some milkweed shoots (or any other vegetable) and presto-a fine meal.
The chicken breast is cooked with part of the bone still attached, sometimes called a supreme, or airline breast. It’s an elegant way to serve chicken if you’re never tried it before.
Chicken Breast with Chicken Of The Woods and Milkweed Shoots
You could just as easily leave the skin on the chicken breast and get it all crispy in the pan, if you do, serve the mushrooms on the side so they don’t steam the skin and make it soggy.
I like lighter dishes in warmer weather, which is why this is garnished with chicken jus, but the mushrooms in a cream sauce would be great in the fall.
Serves 4 as an entree
- 4 chicken breasts, skin removed, wing bone attached and trimmed (see picture above)
- Flour for dredging the chicken (I used wild rice flour)
- 1/2 lb fresh milkweed shoots
- 12 ounces chicken of the woods mushrooms, as young as possible
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
- 1 qt homemade chicken stock (optional)
- Couple dashes of champagne vinegar (optional)
- 1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic
- Duck fat, another animal lard or grapeseed oil, as needed for sauteing
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Put the chicken stock if using in a saucepot and reduce on medium heat until only 2 cups remain, then season lightly with salt and a dash of vinegar to taste. Reserve the stock and keep hot. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375.
Heat a small pot of salted water. Trim the milkweed shoots by cutting the stalk where it becomes tender like you would asparagus, then remove the leaves from the stalk, until only the young, tender leaves at the top remain. Blanch the milkweed for a few seconds until it turns bright green in the boiling water, then shock in an ice bath to preserve the color, drain and reserve. Alternately, the milkweed shoots could also be chopped into 1 inch pieces and fried in butter instead of blanching and cooking.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the cooking oil in a large saute pan big enough to accommodate all of the chicken breasts without overcrowding the pan. Season the chicken breasts all over with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour, tap off any excess, and cook until they start to turn golden brown, then put the pan in the oven to finish.
Cook the chicken breasts until the flesh is firm and the juice runs clear around the joint, and no longer. This should take about ten minutes. If the chicken isn’t golden brown, put the pan back on the burner for a minute or two and caramelize. Flip the chicken the lightly to cook the other side, then put on a preheated dinner plate. Meanwhile, heat up the blanched milkweed shoots in some of the butter, double check the seasoning, and put on the plate with the chicken and keep warm.
Lastly, remove any oil from the pan you cooked the chicken in, but don’t clean it. Add two tablespoons of the animal fat or oil and heat until nearly smoking. Add the chicken of the woods mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally until caramelized and cooked through. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 1 minute more. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper to taste, then finish by adding a tablespoon of unsalted butter to them. Spoon the mushrooms and butter on top of the chicken breasts, then ladle 1/4 cups of the hot chicken jus onto each plate, garnish with the chive blossoms if using and serve immediately.