Friday, February 10, 2012

New England "Clam" Chowder

I promised to post this recipe almost two years ago but never got around to it. It's a good thing too, because I've tweaked it again and feel that it's even better than the first version. There are a few steps that require some prep ahead of time, but if you spread it out over a couple days, this soup comes together pretty fast. This chowder is as close as I've gotten to the real thing without having to cave in to the frozen, premade "clam" substitutes on the market. Those products can be great in a pinch, but I like to keep it real with Eryngii mushrooms aka King Oyster mushrooms. King Oyster mushrooms are really versatile and can be quite convincing when attempting to recreate seafood dishes. Recently, at the last Castle Gourmet dinner, Chef Anne Lee and I seared up some sliced King Oyster mushrooms "scallops" for our main dish and got a few oohs and ahhs from our guests. They are damn tasty, especially with garlic and lemon. When you head to the store for your mushrooms, get a pound and try them out in pasta dishes for a "shrimp scampi" or saute them up and put them in a sushi roll. If you don't like mushrooms, well, I guess there's just no hope for you.

Kidding. Totally kidding. Why are we friends again?

For this recipe you'll need a little over a half pound.

1/2 lb King Oyster Mushrooms, quartered length-wise and diced
1/2 medium shallot
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon canola oil

2-3 celery stalks, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 shallot, minced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 tablespoons canola oil
2 1/2 cups potatoes, peeled, rinsed and cubed (I like russets)
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
4 cups faux chicken broth or veggie broth (I use powder "chicken" bouillon and mix with water, make sure it's not too salty)
2 cups cashew cream or mimicreme (making your own is best!)
2-3 teaspoons mild miso paste
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon crushed roasted nori (crumble up a 2 in. square of nori)
smoked or regular sea salt to taste
fresh pepper to taste


In a pan over medium high heat, add a tablespoon of oil and drop in your diced mushrooms. Cook for about 4 minutes until the mushrooms start giving up some of their juices. Add in the half shallot and saute for another 3-4 minutes, until mushrooms begin to lightly brown around the edges. Careful not to burn the shallot. Pour in your liquid smoke, stir to mix and remove from heat. Place mushrooms in a bowl and set aside.

In a stock pot over medium high heat, sprinkle sea salt at the bottom of the pot and heat up for a minute. Add your oil. When oil is hot, add the onion, shallot and garlic. Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes, then add in the celery. Continue cooking for another 5-7 minutes. Add the bay leaf and thyme, then pour in the veggie or faux chicken broth. Add your potatoes at this point. Bring pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. After your soup has cooked for about 10 minutes, gently mix the miso paste with the cashew cream and add this mix to the soup. Sprinkle in the nutritional yeast and nori, stir to combine. Now we add the pre-cooked mushrooms to the soup and continue cooking until the potatoes are tender. Do your best to not overcook the potatoes. We don't want them to crumble away and disappear! At the very end of cooking, mix in the lemon juice to taste and add your salt and pepper to taste as well. Smoked sea salt is a nice touch, so if you see some at the store, get it! Don't forget to remove the bay leaf.

Serve piping hot with crackers or in a bread bowl, if you're fancy. Garnish with fresh, chopped parsley and/or bac'n bits.