How to Cook a Perfect Pheasant Back / DryaD’s Saddle Mushroom
Most people use the common name of Pheasant Back for this mushroom, but I adore the alternative name Dryad’s Saddle! It’s such a perfect image for the enchanted, fairy tale forests that make up much of Western North Carolina.
While exploring a trail not far from downtown Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway this weekend, I spotted a couple of fruiting bodies that were perfectly fresh. They have the scent of cucumber or watermelon rind when raw, and you can feel how tender they are. The larger one in my photo above was about 4” across. When young, they slice like butter.
As they age Dryad’s Saddle can get quite big, but quickly get too tough to eat. The tougher pieces can be dried and ground into powder to flavor soups, stews, and sauces.
The flavor of this mushroom is absolutely beautiful! It tastes somewhere between pork and chicken, with that hint of nuttiness that mushrooms often have. The texture is also not far from chicken - not the least bit of slime or mush.
We ate this batch alone as an appetizer, but it would be outstanding over pasta with a light cream sauce or as a side with white meat and spring vegetables. I can’t wait to find more of these and develop more recipes!
The Best Way to Cook a Young Dryad’S Saddle:
Brush the dirt from the mushrooms. Do not soak or rinse! If necessary, use a damp cloth to get stubborn dirt off.
Slice the tender part of the cap into 1/2” thick slices. Your knife should easily glide through the mushroom. Set aside the tougher stem pieces.
Heat a pan (I prefer cast iron) on medium-high heat, and when hot add a teaspoon of high quality cooking oil. Olive oil and butter will burn, so use an oil that can handle higher heat.
Place the slices in the pan in a single layer and let them cook without stirring until they get a nice brown sear on the bottom. Timing will depend on how wet the mushrooms are to begin with, and you’ll see them release their water as they cook.
Turn the slices over and let brown on the other side. Again, don’t stir them around yet.
Once both sides are nicely browned sprinkle a bit of salt over them and stir around for a minute or so.
Remove from the pan and eat immediately.
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