January 12, 2015
champignons tirés
(pulled mushroom)
There was this one patient in the late 1980s that had ignored a ruptured appendix. Apparently, he just sat on his front porch drinking beer and hoping that the pain would go away. By the time he was brought unconscious to Rochester General Hospital, his sepsis was so bad that edema had formed throughout his body. He was nicknamed the Michelin man because of his appearance, but he had significantly less flexibility and none of the cheerful personality of the French icon. The day I saw him in the operating room, he was making his second appearance. Fluid had filled his abdominal cavity, and the pressure was compromising his organs. The surgeon drained more than a quart of pus out of him that day. Of all the days I spent in surgery, this was probably the most unusual.
Most days in surgery were more routine with me watching the same procedure that I had seen countless times before. The patients were different, and the effected tissue was different, but the surgical treatment was the same. My job was to watch. Sometimes I was quiet. At other times I kept up a running conversation with the surgeon. I always asked a slew of questions. I was there to mostly observe how well the equipment my company designed and built was doing its intended job, but I was also there to create new applications for the equipment.
One new surgical procedure that I was peripherally involved in developing was the laparoscopic cholecystectomy.The procedure was so successful and training was so much in demand that two of the principle surgeons who had championed the first practical procedure set up a training center in Marietta, Georgia. For about nine months starting in 1990, I spent nine out of every fourteen days in Marietta helping to teach surgeons how to do the procedure. By the time the center closed a decade later, over 10,000 surgeons had been trained, and laparoscopy was a well‑establish surgical technique performed by general surgeons.
Courses at the training center lasted two days. Each day lunch was provided. For most of the time I worked there, the lunch on the first day included pulled pork. The caterer called it barbecue, but it was simply pulled pork slathered in a sweet, commercial, tomato‑based barbecue sauce. It was accompanied by hamburger buns, cornbread, Brunswick stew, and coleslaw. I liked it.
Flash forward a few decades. I briefly see a picture on the Internet of what looks like pulled pork but is actually a shredded mushroom. As so often happens, I soon forget which site the picture is on. A quick search reveals that the idea is not particularly unique, and as usual, the methods I find online seem a bit complicated.
I’ve known for a long time that mushrooms are virtually indestructible. Place carrots, onions, or any other vegetable in a stew pot. By the time the meat is properly cooked, the vegetables are soft and mushy. Mushrooms added at the same time will shrink, but they will not fall apart. I probably could have just simmered the mushroom for this dish, but I decided to be a bit more controlling.
I vacuum‑packed a large king trumpet mushroom, the current name in my region for this large type of oyster mushroom. I cooked it for three hours at 88 °C (190 °F). When it was cool enough to handle, I used a fork to shred the mushroom. I found that once the thick stalk had be separated into three or four thinner ones, I could use the fork tings to separate the strands of fiber by dragging parallel to the axis. Once the mushroom—I only cooked one, and it was large enough for four portions—was shredded, I packed it away in my refrigerator while I decided what type of sauce to serve it with.
Although I’m partial to mass‑produced barbecue sauce, I haven’t purchased a bottle in many years. I decided to build my own since I only needed a small amount. The quantities listed below will make enough sauce for two large mushrooms, or about eight portions.
2 T
tomato paste
1 t
agave syrup
1 t
cider vinegar
14 t
mustard powder
14 t
wasabi powder
18 t
cayenne pepper
18 t
liquid smoke
1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Combine with the shredded mushrooms.
2. Rapidly heat the mixture in a frying pan over high heat.
3. Divide between individual dishes for serving.

© 2015 Peter Hertzmann. All rights reserved.