We all know that ‘mushroom bacon’ is not really bacon. I’m talking about “bacon”. And while I get annoyed with food marketed as something else (tofurky), nothing communicates quite like a good metaphor in air quotes. So, while I’m not going to fool the pork lovers out there, using the ‘B’ word is aptly descriptive. It infers what you’re going to get; an earthy, dense bite of savory, slightly salty immune-boosting goodness.
No, I won’t bash legit bacon. I have nephews who would never forgive me if I did. But, it’s good to know that these umami bombs are totally unprocessed. And even more important, they are free from the cancer-causing nitrates added to many processed meats.
HOW TO MAKE MUSHROOM BACON
The classic style is shiitake bacon made with, you guessed it, shiitake mushrooms. Cut into quarter-inch slices or thinner, the texture is just meaty enough to work as a bacon-inspired topping for pizza, pasta or soup, a side with breakfast or just about anything. Because, isn’t everything better with mushroom bacon? Exhibit A, the “strips” of bacon below. Pardon the pun…
Whichever mushroom variety you choose, the preparation is the same and shockingly simple. Just tear or slice them into bite-size pieces and lightly toss with extra virgin olive oil. For a little more decadence, add a splash of maple syrup to the olive oil. Then, spread the mushrooms out in a single layer on a parchment or Silplat-line baking sheet and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Baking the Bacon. Bake them in a pre-heated 350°F oven and cook for 5-10 minutes, flip them and cook for 5-10 minutes more (depending on their size and thickness) or until they start getting slightly crisp and lightly browned. Ten minutes was enough for these delicate maitakes, commonly known as “Hen of the Woods” mushrooms. The oyster and shiitake mushrooms, being much ‘meatier’, took more time, about 30 minutes.
Tips for Crisper Bacon. The more delicate mushrooms will become crispy quickly. For extra crispness with the bigger mushrooms, after they have finished cooking, turn off the heat, keeping the cooked mushrooms in the oven as they cool. You can also transfer the cooked mushrooms on paper towels to cool, dabbing them to absorb any extra moisture.
Shiitake Bacon “Strips” (Sorry, Couldn’t Resist)
What Are Myconutrients?
Mushrooms are rich in mycronutrients, compounds with anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties. The type of beta glucan fibers unique to mushrooms provide protection against colds, flus and viruses. They also contain phytochemicals considered to have anti-cancer properties. Of all the commonly eaten mushrooms, the shiitake and Hen of the Woods mushrooms have been considered medicinal superstars for centuries.
Even the common button mushrooms are inflammation busters and will boost levels of immunglobulin A (IgA), the primary antibody in our mucous membranes, critical to proper immune function. In one study, participants eating one cup of cooked button mushrooms every day for a week had a 50% boost in the IgA levels of their saliva for a full week after they stopped eating the mushrooms.
So, consider adding mushrooms to your daily diet, even small quantities. But, to get the desirable health benefits, eat them cooked. Due to tough cell walls, mushrooms nutrients are only considered available when cooked.
- Murray, Michael and Pizzorno, Joseph, The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, New York, NY: Atria Books, 2005.
- Greger, Michael and Stone, Gene, How Not to Die, New York, NY: Flatiron Books, 2015.