First things first – Fox Farm & Forage is based in North Carolina, where BBQ is serious business. Folks around here take their smoked sauced meat very seriously, so it’s practically sacrilege to suggest that we are replacing tasty juicy pork with oyster mushrooms.
But that is exactly what we are doing. When first heard about the idea of using oyster mushrooms as a meat substitute in pulled pork BBQ, we figured it would not hold a candle to the meaty savory flavor of a pork butt that has been lovingly rubbed and smoked all day until it was fall-apart delicious. We were wrong.
The oyster mushrooms have a texture that holds up very well on the grill, plus they soak up the flavor of smoke. The texture is perfect, crispy on the edges, moist in the middle – and they pull apart very similar to meat. Paired with a nice tart slaw with just a bit of your favorite BBQ sauce, even the most hardcore carnivore can’t deny that oyster mushrooms make an excellent BBQ sandwich.
We use about a pound and a half of oysters for this recipe – a mix of mostly Wellington for their substantial size with some Salmon in there for color and a hint of that ham flavor. We found that the salmons do tend to dry out faster, so use them as an accent, not the entire dish.
A good slaw is important to a proper BBQ sandwich. I don’t like the typical sweet southern mayo/cabbage slaw, so instead I use 1 part mayonaise, 1/2 part apple cider, a dash of celery salt and hot pepper flakes mixed with finely chopped kale, sweet onions and carrots. It’s best to make this prior to starting the oysters so it can sit for a bit in the fridge.
First step for the BBQ part is to prep the grill – We soak a healthy handful of apple wood chips in hot water for about 2 hours before we start. I tend to use a more mild smoke wood with oysters, as they absorb flavor quickly, so apple / peach / pecan / cherry woods work well. I found that heavier woods like mesquite and hickory can be a bit overpowering with mushrooms, but everyone has their preferences.
Get a good chimney of hot coals going, then pile them up on 1/2 your grill. Put the soaked wood chips in a foil packet with a few holes in it, and put it directly on the coals. Open all of the vents, once it gets to about 400F and a steady stream of smoke is coming out of the packet, we are ready to smoke! (Gas grill users can just fire up half of their burners and place the foil packet on the hot side)
Put the shrooms on the indirect heat side of the grill (opposite the hot side). I found that complete clusters with a good amount of weight to them do the best, although loose mushrooms also work. You want to watch the loose ones, as they will dry out quickly, so pull them off sooner.
Some people would say that this grill is dirty, I prefer “seasoned”
It will take about 20 minutes to heat and cook the mushrooms all the way through. The cluster will wilt, so move it around to ensure that the smoky goodness gets throughout the cluster. At the end, after 20 minutes or so, it should be darker and limp. I like to place it directly over the hot coals for just a couple of minutes to crisp up the edges, then pull off the grill to cool.
Once the mushrooms are cool enough, start pulling them apart in thin strips. If you start on the edge of the cap and work towards the base, you will find that they shred very easily into nice fine strips. Try not to sample the smoky goodness yet, you want to save them for the sandwiches.
Hard to believe, but these are mushrooms, not pulled pork.
Mix in your favorite BBQ sauce – I normally like a vinegar based sauce (We are both North Carolina natives after all), but a more traditional thick tomato based BBQ sauce holds everything together nicer.
Get some good sandwich rolls from the bakery, and lightly toast them or char them over the grill. Stack the slaw, then a healthy portion of mushroom BBQ – then grab a few napkins, because enjoying a good BBQ sandwich involves wearing some of it!
We found that the pound and a half provided about 6 sandwiches, so 2 lbs should do 8.
Recipe (makes about 8 sandwiches, or 4 servings)
1 1/2 to 2 lbs Oyster Mushrooms
2 cups soaked mild smoking wood (apple / pecan / cherry)
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
Dash of celery salt (to taste)
Dash of red pepper flakes (to taste)
1 bunch kale, stalks removed and cut into thin strips
1 small sweet or vidalia onion, sliced thin
1 carrot, sliced thin
8 sandwich rolls (brioche style preferred)
Mix the mayonnaise, celery salt, red pepper flakes and vinegar to taste in a bowl. Mix in the kale, onions and carrots, then set aside in the refrigerator to sit.
Prepare coals on one side of grill and place soaked wood chips in a foil packet on top of coals. Once grill hits 400F and the packet is smoking, place oyster mushroom clusters on opposite side of coals in indirect heat. Cook for at least 20 minutes, rotating every 5 minutes to ensure even smoking.
Pull off mushrooms, once cool pull apart into thin strips in a mixing bowl. Add your favorite BBQ sauce enough to coat.
Assemble kale and BBQ on toasted rolls and serve.