Vegan Mushroom Bisque

I’ve been trying to make one vegan/vegetarian dish each week to cut down a bit on my meat consumption.  The secret ingredient to this dish is homemade cashew cream which, in the finished product, you wouldn’t know isn’t dairy.  You could make this recipe using heavy cream rather than the cashew cream for a vegetarian version, but I highly recommend using the cashew cream because its light nuttiness truly compliments the gentle earthy flavor of the mushrooms.

Time:  1 hour
Difficulty:  Easy/Intermediate
Cost:  $5.00/plate
Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  1.  Vegetable oil, for frying mushrooms, approximately 3-4 tablespoons
  2. 3/4 lb crimini mushrooms, chopped
  3. 1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, chopped, stems discarded
  4. Salt and pepper
  5. 4 small shallots, finely minced
  6. 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  7. 1/2 cup sherry wine, plus 1/2 teaspoon
  8. 4 cups vegetable broth (32oz box)
  9. Chopped chives (for garnish)
  10. 1/4 cup brandy
  11. White truffle oil or olive oil (for garnish)
  12. 8oz can raw cashews (i.e., unsalted and not roasted)
  13. Approximately 1 cup cold water

Instructions:

Note:  The reason we’re doing the mushrooms in batches here is because each batch serves a different purpose.  The first batch (step 2) will create and nice mushroom fond in which to sauté our aromatics (the shallot and garlic). The second batch (step 5) will absorb the flavor of the aromatics.  The third batch (step 8) will add a chunky texture and earthy flavor to the bisque.

  1. Begin by making the cashew cream.  Dump the entire 8oz can of cashews into a blender and pulse a few times to finely chop.  Add half the water and pulse a few more times.  With the motor running, add the rest of the water and blend until a thick, smooth cream begins to form.  This took about 5 minutes with my Ninja blender.  You will need to stop a few times to scrape down the sides of the blender with a spatula.  Add a bit of water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, if creamy texture isn’t achieved after 5-7 minutes of blending.  It should have the texture and consistency of créme fraîche .  Once cream is finished, set aside in a bowl and cover; allow to rest at room temperature.
  2. Chop all mushrooms and combine into a large bowl.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a sauté pan or large frying pan.  Once pan is quite hot, add 1/3 of the mushrooms.  Sauté until most of their water is given up and they release a slightly nutty aroma, approximately 5 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to an appropriate pot for making soup (a small stock pot or large 4-6 quart sauce pan would be appropriate).
  4. Add shallots and sauté until translucent, 5-7 minutes.  Add a bit of vegetable oil and lower the heat if they start to brown.
  5. Add garlic and sauté with shallots until very fragrant, 1-2 more minutes
  6. Add second third of mushrooms and sauté with shallots and garlic until pan is looking somewhat dry, 3 -4 minutes
  7. Add sherry wine to deglaze the pan.  Flambé if you like.  Bring to a boil and allow any remaining raw alcohol to cook off, 3 minutes.  The aroma will change from pungent and sharp to gentle and sweet.  Transfer contents of pan to pot with first batch of mushrooms.
  8. Add vegetable stock to pot and bring to a boil.
  9. Add the last 1/3 of mushrooms to the sauté pan along with a little oil if there isn’t enough oil left in the pan.  Sauté for 2 minutes over high heat.  Add 1/4 cup brandy and Flambé.  Reduce until liquid in the pan is evaporated and off the heat.
  10.  Off the heat on the pot and using an immersion blender, pureé the contents until very smooth.  Return to a simmer and stir in cashew cream, a few spoonfuls at a time, until desired color and texture is achieved.  Season to taste with salt and pepper (Note:  You’re probably going to need a lot of salt since none of the ingredients have any natural saltiness to them).
  11. Once seasoned to taste, stir in flambéed mushrooms.  Bring to a simmer and then off the heat
  12. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon raw sherry wine to brighten the sauce and add acidity
  13. Serve with a garnish of chives and truffle or olive oil.

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