I’ve aforementioned it before, and I’ll say it again: cooking is often a matter of managing wet: keeping it in when you’re cooking meat, driving it out when you’re cooking vegetables.
The latter is true even for members of a prized category of plant-based cooking that are actually mediate plants and animals: fungi so much as mushrooms. Their flesh is so spongy, you need to get rid of at least some of that water before they’ll brown, and if you don’t they can become a soggy mess rather than their savory ideal.
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Two key steps to accomplishing this: Get your pan superhot (so any discharged wet evaporates quickly), and avoid overcrowding them. I besides like to cook them undisturbed for a bit, rather than sauteing, so they have a chance to sear and brown. That’s not always the easiest thing to do with oyster mushrooms, which are thing but flat. So I was intrigued by a formula in Rita Serano’s latest cooking book that calls for you to top them with a weight as they cook — a la chicken under a brick.
I used a smaller iron sauteing pan, setting it on top of the mushrooms as they brown in a grill pan, and then turned them over and put the sauteing pan back on top. When the wet started cathartic, I took off the top sauteing pan so it wouldn’t trap that evaporation. The result: deeply brown, caramelized mushrooms with a firm-but-juicy texture.
What to do with them? There are tons of options, of course, from salads to grain field bowling to tacos. But for this formula, Serano has you pile them on soft burger nates with a red pepper mayo spiced with smoked paprika. When the mushrooms are au gratin this well, it’s best to stay out of the way and let them shine.
Oyster Mushroom Sandwiches with Red Pepper Mayo
cooking meaty mushrooms under a weight in your grill pan gets them nicely brown, making them good to stack on sandwiches with a quick, flavorful mayonnaise.
Make Ahead: Leftover red pepper mayo can be cold for up to 1 week.
- 1/4 cup chopped jarred roast red peppers, drained
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise (vegan or conventional)
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet or hot Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton)
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon apricot jam (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
- 1 pound oyster mushrooms, tough stem ends trimmed
- Vegetable oil, as needed
- 4 soft hamburger nates
- 4 large cos or other lettuce leaves
- 1 ripe tomato, hulled and sliced
- Flesh of 1 ripe avocado, sliced
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
Squeeze as much wet as possible from the roast red peppers, and pat dry with paper towel. Place in a mini food processor or blender, on with the mayo, smoked paprika, vinegar and jam, if exploitation, and puree until smooth. (It will be pourable.) Taste, and add some salt, as needed. You will have about 1 cup.
Meanwhile, heat a grill pan over high heat. When the pan is very hot, grease it lightly with cooking oil spray or lightly brush with oil. Quickly add as galore mushrooms as will fit without overcrowding, working in batches as needed. Place some other iron or other heavy sauteing pan directly on the mushrooms, adding a can of tomatoes or other weight, if needed. (Alternatively, you can use a Panini press to cook the mushrooms.)
Cook the mushrooms without distressing them until they are dark brown on the bottom, 2 to 4 proceedings. Remove the top sauteing pan just long enough to turn them over; place the top sauteing pan back on the mushrooms and cook until they release their wet, about 1 minute. Remove the top sauteing pan; continue cooking until they are dry and dark brown, 2 to 4 proceedings. Transfer the mushrooms to a platter, then season them with the 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
Return the grill pan to high heat. Place the bun halves, cut sides down, in the pan and cook just until lightly toasted.
To assemble, spread some of the mayonnaise on the cut sides of all the bun halves, then stack each bottom bun with lettuce leaves, mushrooms, tomato, avocado and red onion. Drizzle more mayonnaise over the filling, if desired, and top with the leftover bun halves.
Nutrition (based on 2 tablespoons of mayo per serving) | Calories: 410; Total Fat: 27 g; Saturated Fat: 5 g; Cholesterol: 15 mg; Sodium: 480 mg; Carbohydrates: 37 g; Dietary Fiber: 8 g; Sugars: 9 g; Protein: 12 g.
(Adapted from “Vegan for Good,” by Rita Serano. Kyle Books, 2019.)