Happy Autumn everyone!  I can’t believe it’s finally fall–I even crunched over some golden sycamore leaves earlier today.  The dogwoods are purpling, the goldenrod is blooming, and the sun even peeped out a bit today (maybe we’ll get some vibrant blue skies soon!).

This evening for dinner I wanted to celebrate the season, and what better way than with some locally foraged Chicken of the Woods mushrooms?!  They were back at the farmers market this past Saturday so of course I had to pick up a few.  Determined to outwit the all-too-easily dried-out fungi, I did a quick search for braised chicken recipes.  One of the first ones I came across was this one from Food & Wine Magazine: Braised Chicken Thighs with Sauerkraut.  Delicious sounding, no?  Maybe a little more “wintery” than “fallish,” but, hey, the mushrooms and apples and carrots are in-season so that makes it an autumn dish to me.  Plus anything with cabbage or sauerkraut gets a two-thumbs-up in my book.

Braising the mushrooms worked out perfectly–they turned out moist and tender, exactly what I was hoping for–and the sauerkraut is absolutely delicious.  It’s tangy and earthy and sweet, just like autumn!  Even when the mushrooms aren’t in season, I’m keeping this recipe in my repertoire.

I hope everyone’s enjoying the beginning of the season, and don’t forget, Vegan MoFo 2009 starts October 1.  Head over to Kittee’s site for more details and to sign up!

Braised Chicken (of the Woods) with Sauerkraut

adapted from Food & Wine Magazine

4 Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms, cleaned and sliced in half
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
1/2 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 1/2 c drained and rinsed sauerkraut
1/2 c vegetable broth
1 tsp spicy brown mustard
5 juniper berries, lightly crushed
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp olive oil

In a large deep frying pan or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.

Meanwhile, sprinkle the Chicken of the Woods mushrooms with the 1/2 tsp salt and the pepper. Cook in the pan or dutch oven for 2 minutes, flip, and cook another 2 minutes, until browned on each side. Be careful not to overcook the mushrooms–you just want a light sear. Remove from the pan/pot.

Add the onion, carrot, and apple to the pan. Cook over medium heat, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in the sauerkraut, broth, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, the mustard, juniper berries, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat, and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. After the sauerkraut has cooked for 20 minutes, arrange the mushrooms in an even layer on top and cook for an additional 8-10 minutes, until tender.

Remove the mushrooms from the pan and discard the bay leaf. If too much liquid remains in the pan, raise the heat to moderately high and cook until slightly thickened. Serve the sauerkraut topped with the mushrooms.

Serves 4.