Introducing the Chicken Mushroom
The bracket fungus known as the chicken mushroom (Laetiporus cincinnatus) is widespread in the New York area. It has a pale yellow or bright orange color, and can be found growing on logs in the forest. When cooked, its similarity to chicken -- both visual and taste-wise -- is astonishing, making it a great ingredient in vegetarian or vegan recipes.
According to "Wildman" Steve Brill, it can even be found in New York City parks. I've seen it for sale at the Union Square Greenmarket recently, which is where I bought this specimen. Though sold for the premium price of $25 per pound (at that price you can buy chanterelles), a quarter-pound is plenty for use in a pasta recipe.
I brought my chicken mushroom home, tore it into fragments, and sautéed it in olive oil with lots of minced garlic and shallots, and a little fresh oregano, too, deglazed with white wine, then added a roughly chopped heirloom tomato, seeds, skin, and all. Finally, I tossed it with pasta. If you want, add some grated cheese, or put a pat of butter on top to finish.
How did the mushroom taste in the pasta? Well, just like the chicken you pull from the carcass of a rotisserie bird after you've made one meal out of it, and are casting about to find a use for the rest.