For Bon Appetit, by Alyse Whitney.
My best friend in college had a thing for frozen vegan bacon. The plasticky scent of it microwaving in our dorm’s communal kitchen and the cardboard texture still gives me nightmares from time to time. I don’t mind tofu or seitan versions of meat, but this fake bacon was more dog treat than breakfast-sandwich filling. So I was skeptical when senior food editor Rick Martinez mentioned a topping he puts on his cream of mushroom soup that tasted like bacon but was made of... mushrooms.
Then I tried this mushroom bacon. These crispy-chewy, smoky bits of ‘shrooms were nothing like the vegan bacon of my college days. I ate an entire bowlful with a spoon. They’re more addictive than movie-theater popcorn, and, I’ll say it, they totally taste like bacon.
Martinez loves baby shiitakes for the shape, but he appreciates pre-sliced button mushrooms for convenience. Just toss a pound of them with ½ cup olive oil, three cloves of garlic (grated on a microplane), and a few sprigs of thyme or rosemary. Rick also adds a few pinches of red pepper flakes for heat and sprinkles on a very liberal amount of salt and pepper.
Spread it all evenly on a sheet tray and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. The timing is up to you. As Rick says, “How do you like your bacon?” The 45-minute mark will give you medium-crisp mushrooms, whereas an hour will get you closer to dark and almost burnt. Like bacon, the chips will harden as they cool, so pull one a little early, let it sit five minutes, and then taste it for texture. Once they’re to your liking, pull them out and finish with more salt.
Aside from eating mushroom bacon by the handful, these little guys are great on soups, baked potatoes, or pastas (like mushroom-leek orecchiette) or, Martinez’s favorite, an open-faced MLT (mushroom-lettuce-tomato) sandwich. If you manage to have leftovers, line an airtight container with a paper towel and re-crisp before serving. Or just send them my way.
Or you can make crispy mushrooms this way:
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