Over the years, being a vegetarian during summer cookouts has put me in awkward situations that I would rather avoid. Sometimes I bring my own bean burgers or a pack of soy dogs and try to position myself in a section of the grill where there is no meat. On other occasions, I pile potato and three-bean salads high on the paper plate I use for my meal. In the ten years, I’ve been a vegetarian, I’ve missed out on quite a bit of barbecue. This is not to say that potato and three-bean salads aren’t delicious or that soy dogs aren’t worth trying.
Honestly, I don’t miss the meat all that much; instead, it’s the fiery, sweet-and-sour barbecue sauce that makes any food exciting and reminds me of the heat of an August afternoon. Why not construct a vegetarian version of a pulled pork sandwich using tofu instead of a pig? Something delightfully, gloriously sticky, and drippy on soft bread.
As is the case so frequently when meat is not an option, the meat in this sandwich has been replaced by mushrooms, which are exceptionally flavorful and absorb other flavors. Any vegetarian who has recoiled in horror at the thought of a sloppy portobello “burger” be assured that this is not that. In this step, you start with a mountain of cremini mushrooms, slice them as thinly as possible, and then toast them in butter until they are profoundly brown. Add a sweet and soft tangle of onions to the mixture so that it may bind the ingredients together and have a “pulled” consistency.
How to Prepare Mushrooms to Be “Pulled”
Because there are so many mushrooms (two entire pounds of them, which seems like and is a lot, but they cook down significantly), you will need to sauté them in batches. This is because the mushrooms require a lot of space in the pan to get the most excellent, most caramelized edges possible. Add some smoked paprika and apple cider vinegar to each batch before removing it from the fire. This will give you a taste of the barbecue sauce coming later. It shouldn’t take much longer than twenty minutes to complete the entire procedure, which is a lot less time than cooking a hog shoulder.
Putting the finishing touches on the mixture couldn’t be simpler: Bring everything, including the mushrooms and the onions, back to the pan, and then add some piquant, vinegary barbecue sauce, and a little bit of water to the mixture. This sandwich can be stacked: Start with warm brioche buns, then pile on a large scoop of mushrooms, followed by another scoop of creamy slaw, and finish with another knowledge of mushrooms. In addition, a stack of napkins should always be served beside a tasty barbecue sandwich.
- Seven tablespoons unsalted butter, split
- One medium-sized yellow onion cut very thinly.
- Two pounds of cremini, button, or mixed mushrooms, with the woody ends taken off and the mushrooms sliced very thinly.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika, divided
- A barbecue sauce such as Stubb’s measuring three-quarters of a cup
- 1/2 cup water or veggie broth with a reduced sodium content
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper that has been freshly ground.
- Four brioche buns, cut in half
- Slaw with a creamy dressing for serving
- In a large skillet heated over medium-low heat, melt one tablespoon of the butter. After adding the onion, continue to sauté it until it is pretty soft and has a golden hue. Place the mixture in a bowl of a suitable size and put it aside.
- Over medium-high heat, melt two tablespoons of the butter in the same pan you’ve used. After adding a third of the mushrooms, swirl them into the butter to coat them. Cook the mushrooms over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring them regularly until brown and soft. (At first glance, they could appear to be dry; don’t worry!) After adding a half teaspoon of vinegar and smoked paprika to the mushrooms and thoroughly combining the two ingredients, transfer the mushrooms to the bowl containing the onions. Proceed with two more batches using the remaining butter, mushrooms, vinegar, and paprika. Repeat as necessary.
- Place the mushroom and onion combination back into the pan and turn the heat down to medium-low. Add the barbecue sauce and the water or broth, mix well, and continue cooking until the sauce begins to thicken somewhat. Try it out, and if it needs it, season it with salt and pepper.
- To serve, toast the brioche buns or reheat them slightly. After dividing the food among the buns, top each with creamy slaw.