Pulled Shiitake Mushrooms with Homemade Brandy BBQ Sauce

It seems like portobello mushrooms are all the rage in the summer time, while shiitake mushrooms get the cold shoulder.  And, I get it.  Personally, I equate shiitake mushrooms with immunity boosting soups (Exhibit A.  Exhibit B.), and cooler temperatures.  But recently, I found myself thinking about their texture and flavor, especially dried shiitake mushrooms.  They’re chewy and earthy.  I thought it would be interesting to build a “pulled” shiitake mushroom sandwich from scratch, and use elements that traditionally work well with them.

So as I do, I let the idea move around in my head for a few days!  And I thought, why not use brandy?  Brandy likes to hang out with shiitake mushrooms.  They work well together.  And although it might seem out of the box for a BBQ sauce, fresh ginger seemed like a good choice.  And hey, why not add a good amount of hot sauce, and some Medjool dates for natural sweetness?  Soy sauce to bring it all together.  Caramelized onions, and fresh garlic.  Liquid smoke, because what’s BBQ sauce without a bit of smoke?  

I decided on a mix of dried and fresh shiitake mushrooms.  Mostly due to their different textures and concentration of flavors.  Dried shiitakes are chewier and have a deep flavor.  Fresh shiitakes come apart easily and are lighter on the flavor.  Together, they make the sandwich more interesting to eat.

This recipe does take some time, but this homemade bbq sauce needs some time to simmer and come together. While I am putting this recipe out in the middle of the summer season, I can also see this recipe working well throughout the fall and winter months.  

Pulled Shiitake Mushrooms with Homemade Brandy BBQ Sauce

Brandy BBQ Sauce:

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 inch ginger root, peeled and finely chopped

1 tsp chili powder

½ tsp smoked paprika

½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

¼-⅓ cup brandy

3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

6 ounce can of tomato paste

2 ½ cups water

8 Medjool dates, pits removed

1 ½ Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce

2 tsp hot sauce

1 tsp liquid smoke

Pulled Shiitakes:

1 ounce of dried sliced shiitake mushrooms

2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced

2 Tbsp olive oil

¼ cup red onion, thinly sliced

1.  Place dried sliced shiitake mushrooms in a colander, and rinse off thoroughly in the sink.  Remove any sand or dust that may be lurking in the gills.  Drain the excess water, and place in a large mixing bowl.  Pour boiling hot water over the top of the mushrooms, and allow them to reconstitute (~20 minutes).

2. While the dried mushrooms are hydrating, start working on caramelizing the onions for the BBQ sauce.  Add the medium onion, olive oil, and a dash of salt to a large, heavy pot or dutch oven.  Turn burner to HIGH.  Once the onions start sizzling, turn it down to medium-low heat, and saute for 25 minutes, or until the onions turn a deep yellow or light brown.

2. While the onions are caramelizing, start thinly slicing the fresh shiitake mushrooms.  I also slice up the stems, because they have a different texture than the cap.  

3. When the onions are totally caramelized, add the fresh ginger and sauté for 2 more minutes. Then, add the chili powder, smoked paprika, and crushed red pepper flakes, and stir around for about 30 seconds.  Add the brandy, and allow it to loosen the bits that are sticking to the bottom of the pan and also reduce in volume.

4. Add the tomato paste, garlic, water, Medjool dates and soy sauce. Remove from heat and blend until completely smooth.  Return the smooth sauce to the pot and stir in liquid smoke and hot sauce.  If it gets too thick after blending, add some water to thin it down to your preferred state.  Taste, and adjust seasonings.  Cover with a lid, and simmer for about 20 minutes over low heat.  Check it half way in to make sure it isn’t getting too thick.

5. In a large skillet over HIGH heat, add red onions and olive oil.  Saute for about 3 minutes, and then, add all the shiitakes.  Stir around constantly for about 3-5 minutes or until the shiitakes sweat out most of their water and reduce in size.

6. Add the sautéed shiitakes to the bbq sauce.  Cover and simmer for 10-20 minutes.  Taste, adjust seasonings (more hot sauce?  a little soy sauce?), and serve on a bun with some Edamame Kale Slaw with Orange Sesame Dressing on the side.

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