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Using Pheasant Back Mushrooms

Pheasant Back (aka Dryad’s Saddle, Polyporus squamosus, Photo 1) is a beautiful and distinctive fungus. You can read more about where it’s found and how to identify it in my Pheasant Back Mushroom post in the Plant (and Fungus) Profiles section of this blog.


Photo 1: Pheasant Back (Polyporus squamosus).

Young Pheasant Backs, or the soft edges of older specimens such as the one shown here, are nice fried, or simmered in butter and white wine with a bit of garlic added. Although many sources describe the taste and smell as akin to Watermelon rind, I found it pleasantly mild and earthy. Most of this one was too old and tough to enjoy, so I made it into a broth instead.


This was my first Pheasant Back, and so I didn’t add anything to my broth; I wanted the pure mushroom flavour. Common additions include garlic, onions, and celery, which I’ll try next time. Making the stock couldn’t be easier: cut the Pheasant Back into one-inch cubes and place them in a stockpot with enough water to cover. Simmer on low heat for one to three hours, until the colour and flavour are where you want them. I left this batch for three hours but didn’t notice much change between hours two and three; I’ll cut the simmering down to two hours next time. You could easily do this overnight in a slow cooker as well. The end result is a delicious, amber liquid (Photo 2).


Photo 2: Pheasant Back broth.

So what do you do with the broth once you’ve made it? I used mine to cook couscous (Photo 3, recipe below), and it was fantastic. Other uses include:

· soup base (homemade cream of mushroom soup, anyone?);

· stir fry liquid;

· addition to casseroles or curries;

· cooking liquid for rice, bulgur, or quinoa;

· an ingredient in creamy pasta sauce (bonus: reduce fat and calories by replacing some cream with this savoury broth!);

· the liquid for mushroom risotto; and

· the broth for stroganoff, jambalaya, or pot roast.


To be honest, I’ll be on the lookout for more Pheasant Back and will be making more of this broth to use in any recipe that calls for chicken or beef broth / stock.


If you give Pheasant Back broth a try, leave a comment to let me know how you used it!


Kate’s Pheasant Back Couscous Salad

2 cups Pheasant Back broth (instructions above)

1.5 cups couscous

1 tsp turmeric

2 tbsp olive oil

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

¼ cup chopped red onion

1/3 cup chopped pistachio nuts


Dressing

5-6 tbsp lemon juice (or the juice from two lemons)

2 tbsp olive oil

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp ginger

½ tbsp honey


Toss dry couscous with turmeric, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bring broth to a boil, pour over couscous, cover and allow to steam for 15 minutes. Combine dressing ingredients and mix well. Once couscous is steamed, fluff with a fork and add dressing. Mix well. Allow to cool to room temperature and add onion and nuts. Refrigerate and serve as a cold side dish.


Photo 3: Pheasant Back couscous.

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