BBQ PULLED OYSTER MUSHROOM SANDWICH
One of my favorite restaurants in Brooklyn used to do this sandwich. And when it closed down a few years ago, I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope with the loss of that smoky, sweet, spicy mess of a sandwich. So I set out to replicate it. I knew I had finally nailed it when I found myself daydreaming not about the sandwich at the restaurant but the one I’d made the previous evening. Just an aside: people daydream about food, right? It’s not just me?
This sandwich is guaranteed to shut up those BBQ-loving, meat-eating naysayers that scoff at veggie alternatives. It’s super smoky and full of umami mushroom joy. The texture of the pulled mushrooms lends a unique and decidedly meaty mouth feel. The sauce is a Carolina derivative. It’s tangy, sweet and spicy with a kick from brown mustard. Finally, it’s topped with a simple, bright and peppery slaw that adds a welcome crunchiness. Load it all on a toasted bun and commence stuffing your face. I can’t help but eat these sandwiches in like 30 seconds. If it takes someone longer than a minute or so I assume they're just being polite.
BBQ PULLED OYSTER MUSHROOM SANDWICH
Makes 4 sandwiches
-1 lb. oyster mushrooms
-½ cup apple cider vinegar
-¼ cup ketchup
-2 tbsp vegan butter alternative
-2 tbsp maple syrup
-1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
-½ tsp smoked paprika
-¼ tsp cayenne pepper
-½ small cabbage or ¼ of large cabbage, sliced thin
-2 tbsp soy mayo or other vegan mayo
-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
-1 tsp maple syrup
-fresh cracked black pepper
-4 burger buns or bread of your choice
1. Start by making the BBQ sauce. Add all ingredients to a small pot and bring to a simmer. Whisk as needed, allowing it to gently cook down for about 10 minutes. It should remain on the thin side. You’re going for a fairly loose sauce. Remove from heat and add additional salt to taste. I find about ½ tsp is the right amount of salt for me. Pour sauce into a container and place in the fridge to cool. You can certainly make this ahead of time. I like to make it the day before, because the sauce really gets good after spending the night in the fridge.
2. Next make the simple slaw. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss to evenly coat the cabbage. I like to add a ton of black pepper to this slaw and hold back on the salt quantity, but season to your tastes. Use immediately or place in the refrigerator. Can be made the day before.
3. Finally it’s time to smoke some mushrooms. Break mushrooms by hand into manageable, equal-sized chunks that will fit easily in your smoker. Half a fist size works best for me. Just don’t break them into too small of pieces because they will shrink as they cook, and you don’t want them to fall through the grates or get overcooked. Toss mushrooms chunks with a liberal amount of the vegetable oil and a healthy sprinkle of salt. Place them in your stovetop or conventional hot smoker loaded with hickory wood and smoke for about 15 minutes. Cooking time will vary but you can tell they’re done when the sizzling and hissing reaches a crescendo. Just as the sizzle and hiss starts to ebb I turn off the heat. It’s basically when they’ve released most of their liquid but haven’t yet become overcooked and tough. You want them to be tender and juicy. Carefully remove the cooked mushrooms and place them on a cutting board. To rest for a minute or 2. Cut the fibrous ends off the mushroom chunks and discard. Pull the mushrooms apart while they’re still hot or roughly chop with a knife if it’s too hot. Add the pulled mushrooms to a bowl, add several spoonfuls of the BBQ sauce and toss to coat.
4. To assemble the sandwich, start by toasting the buns. Then pile on the BBQ mushrooms, add another spoonful of BBQ sauce, and then top with a mound of slaw.