1 pound stemmed shiitake mushroom caps , (about 2 pounds before trimming)
¾ cup peanut oil
½ cup tamari , or soy sauce
½ cup + ½ teaspoon nutritional yeast , plus some for dusting
1 teaspoon liquid smoke , plus more to taste
Position racks in the centre and bottom third of the oven and preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Rinse the shiitake caps and dry them thoroughly in a salad spinner or pat them dry with a paper towel. Cut the caps into ¼-inch-thick slices (the goal here is to have similar-size pieces so that they cook evenly). Transfer them to a large bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the peanut oil, tamari, ½ cup of the nutritional yeast, and the liquid smoke. Pour this mixture over the sliced shiitakes. Delicately toss them until all the pieces are coated. Divide the mushrooms evenly onto the baking sheets, arranging them into a single layer.
Sprinkle the remaining ½ teaspoon nutritional yeast on top of the shiitakes and coat the tops with a healthy amount of cooking oil spray. (The goal here is to basically oven-fry the shiitakes, so please don’t hold back—this isn’t a low-fat recipe. We are replicating bacon, people.)
Place the sheets in the oven, one in the centre, one on the bottom. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss with a thin spatula. Spread the mushrooms back out evenly and coat them again with a good amount of cooking oil spray, and another dusting of nutritional yeast. Return the trays to the oven, switching racks. Bake until the mushrooms become crispy on the edges, about 15 minutes (less if you think they might burn). Remove from the oven.
At this point you could make or break the bacon. And because each oven is different, you have to play with it yourself. What you are trying to do is push the mushrooms to their crispiest point without burning them. As my mother would say, you must “Watch them like a hawk!” Coat the mushrooms once more with some cooking oil spray and return to the oven for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes. Taste one. If it is still not crispy, bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. If you are scared to keep pushing it, try only baking a few to see how far you can take them. This way you won’t burn the whole batch.
One baking sheet may be done before the other; just remove them at separate times. Some pieces may also be stubborn and take longer than others. It’s okay if a few pieces are chewier than others. Like the recipe implies, making shiitake bacon is an art. It takes practice to perfect this exquisite food.