It is BLT time.
Say what you will about overstuffed Italian subs, gooey panini, comforting PB&Js, healthy turkey-on-whole-grain…the BLT is the queen of sandwiches. Perhaps not the vapid orange tomato, cold bacon standard at the diner counter, but elevated to its highest incarnation, a BLT is the stuff of dreams.
At my admittedly food-obsessed house, we like ours on whole grain toast, with mayonnaise, lightly salted slices of peak summer tomatoes that have never been in a fridge, crisp thick-cut bacon, crunchy leaves of romaine lettuce, and a few leaves of basil tucked in. Salt and pepper. Classic.
Unfortunately, I’m having gluten issues these days, and Peter is eating vegan most of the time. Both of us splurge in the face of deliciousness, but at least at home, we are pretty much a gluten-free, dairy-free, meat-as-a-flavoring family these days. Which doesn’t leave a lot of room for BLTs, which is sad.
So sad that I invented mushroom bacon.
I didn’t really invent it; the internet has many high-concept baconish mushroom ideas floating around. But I broke out my stovetop smoker, my friends, and smoked some mushrooms.* I started with fat, meaty king oyster mushrooms, procured from my beloved H-Mart. Hickory smoked them, thinly sliced them, dusted them with a salt, sugar, and smoked paprika spice blend, and crisped them in a touch of coconut oil. Bacon. From mushrooms. So good.
Now obviously this won’t fool anyone into thinking they are eating bacon, but it has the same umami flavor, and the crispy edges provide a little bit of bacon mouth-feel.
Bacon mouth-feel, without the squeal.
I toasted some gluten-free bread, which can be okay if you shop around to find a brand that works for you, and slathered it with some non-vegan mayo. I added seasoned slices of that sexy tomato, lettuce, and my mushroom bacon, and you know what? It was a delicious BLT. Not merely “delicious for gluten- and bacon-free,” but “stand on its own, good enough to feed an Iowan pig farmer” delicious.
And I was no longer sad.
*If you want to experience this fake bacon goodness yourself, and don’t happen to have a stovetop smoker, you can totally rig one up. And while you have it puffing away, smoke some tomatoes for smoked tomato soup, or pop in a thick wild salmon filet for dinner or to flake onto salads, or toss in a dozen or two fresh clams, then make chowder from them.
Makes enough for 3-4 BLTs, plus kitchen nibbling while you pinch yourself over how good this is
4 big ol’ king oyster mushrooms –hen of the wood might work, but portobello are too watery. Smaller mushrooms might work unsliced.
2 tablespoons hickory chips
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons coconut oil, or vegetable oil if you still aren’t sure about the coconut oil thing
Using a stovetop smoker or similarly-rigged contraption, hot smoke the mushrooms, whole, over the hickory chips. Cool slightly, remove from smoker, and thinly slice mushrooms the long way. Arrange sliced mushrooms on a layer of paper towels, then blot with more towels to remove as much moisture as possible.
Mix together kosher salt, granulated sugar, and smoked paprika in a small dish. Sprinkle lightly over both sides of the sliced mushrooms.
Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet—I used cast iron; it felt so right!–over high heat until just shy of smoking hot. Working in batches, fry the smoked mushroom slices in a single layer until golden and crisp at the edges, turning 2 or 3 times for best results. Transfer the crisped slices to a towel-lined plate to drain slightly before serving hot or at room temperature, on a magical sandwich or maybe next to some farm fresh eggs?