We’re over here in the thick of a New Orleans southern summer. Let’s not romanticize it for a moment. We’re dumplings in a giant steamer basket. It’s hot, wet, sticky, and the air has an agenda to take you out. The mosquitoes are in on it too and I am down for the count. Living here in summer takes fortitude and a “we will survive” spirit. I do not have that spirit. I have a/c and ice.
However, there are always silver linings, perspective shifts, and looking deeper than my heat-induced temperament of complaints. These summer days lend to the perfect conditions for creole tomatoes, sweet roadside watermelons, okra, eggplant, blackberries, and * drumroll * wild chanterelle mushrooms.
I was introduced to these little fungi gems by my friend Timothy only a couple short months ago. To think, I’ve lived here my entire life and never knew such treasures were growing all around me. And so, we ventured through forested areas scouring under trees and branches and through piles of leaves and I felt like a kid on Christmas morning when we stumbled upon a few. My dream has always been to “live off the fat of the land” and every moment I find a little corner pocket of earth yielding her gifts it always feels so special. Enough so, that I will brave the heat, humidity, mosquitoes, and snakes in search of those moments. And sharing those moments with good friends makes it even more worthwhile.
I was sifting through Timothy’s book, Mississippi Vegan and found his recipe for Wild Chanterelle Pasta with truffled cashew cream and it felt like the perfect way to honor these gifts from the earth. With his permission, I’m sharing his recipe below so you can make this too!
You don’t have chanterelle mushrooms? It’s OKAY! Use shiitake instead. Don’t have truffle oil? Find some, buy some, take out a payment plan if you have to for the good authentic truffle oil. Look for one with little bits of truffle in the oil and buy a small bottle if you have to watch your pennies. A little goes a long way, but noooo substituting or leaving out because it is absolutely what makes this dish decadent and elevates an everyday simple pasta to a “slap ya momma” dish. It has a rich cozy blanket of expansive umami mouthfeel and flavor that makes you close your eyes and think.. “holy cannoli, this is amazing”. And you will definitely use it again because you just have to make my favorite Mississippi Vegan recipe, White Truffle Macaroni and Cheese, which is the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had. Ever. Considering I’m not vegan and love cheese says it all. Trust me. I would not steer you wrong.
The great thing about this recipe is it all comes together fairly quickly and with the exception of the truffle oil, truffle salt, and mushrooms, you likely have all these ingredients hanging around in your kitchen waiting for you to make this dish.
It begins with a modest (yet delicious) cashew cream. You’re not vegan? Cashew cream, what? Yes!! It is yummy and rich and creamy and you will not miss the cream from a cow. Not vegan, but I sure do enjoy a great cashew cream. It’s versatile and often all the ingredients are in your pantry. I did take an extra step to soak my cashews overnight in water in the fridge because I do not have a high-powered blender (one day Vitamix!) and wanted to assist in achieving the silkiest blend possible. However, cashews are such a soft nut that they will still blend smooth without the soak.
Simply blend together water, cashews, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, sea salt, nutmeg, pepper until smooth. If you’re unfamiliar with nutritional yeast, it is simply yellow flakes of deactivated yeast which is often used in vegan cooking due to it’s cheesy nutty flavor profile AND serves as a great source of vitamins and minerals. Hello, B-12! It’s fairly inexpensive and can also be purchased in the bulk food bins at many grocery stores. I first learned about it many years ago as a popcorn topping and find that outside of salt and pepper, it’s versatile enough to toss onto almost anything for a boost of cheesy nutty flavor.
After preparing your cashew cream, the pasta is boiled in water salty as the sea and you’ll want to reserve at least 1 cup of pasta water when you strain your pasta. The reserved pasta water contains starch from the pasta as well as salt which will help to marry your sauce and pasta together to the perfect consistency.
Return your pasta to the pot and toss with a bit of olive oil and cover and set aside (off the heat).
Now, we move along to the stars of the show. Those lovely mushrooms. You’re going to heat up olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the mushrooms. My mushrooms were damp from the rain and a bit muddy, so I rinsed them and patted them dry and left them out on a large cookie sheet in our back room to use the next day. They did shrink and dehydrate a bit and I was completely fine with this because their flavor concentrates and every bite of mushroom had a rich depth of chewy flavor.
You’ll stir these occasionally until the edges begin to brown. Remove half of the mushrooms for garnish because you really won’t want to mash up and hide all these beauties within the pasta. Then, add the shallots and garlic to the pan and cook until golden brown and the remaining mushrooms are crispy.
And then.. it all comes together.
You’re ready to pour the cashew cream into the skillet where all the mushrooms and shallots and garlic have been getting toasty. Continue to stir until the cream begins to thicken.
Once the sauce begins to thicken, remove the skillet from heat. Using tongs, add the pasta to the sauce and toss gently to thoroughly coat the pasta with sauce. I had a bit of a hiccup and allowed my sauce to thicken too much before adding the pasta. So, keep an eye out for that. If you find you do need to loosen up the sauce a bit and help the pasta become friends with the sauce, use the reserved pasta water a little at a time to achieve the desired consistency.
Now, you’re about ready to serve. All that awaits are nice plates, lovely guests to share this with, and that truffle oil and truffle salt. Hello!
I chose to plate the pasta and allow each person to drizzle on their desired amount of truffle oil and salt.
Tie it all together with a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley and you’re ready to enjoy a beautiful meal with good friends.
Thanks so much to Timothy for teaching me all about how and where to find chanterelles and allowing me to share his recipe. Vegan or not, you can enjoy more of his recipes at www.mississippivegan.com , buy his cookbook, and follow him @mississippivegan on Instagram.
Kindness never tasted so damn delicious.
Enjoy, ya’ll !
wild chanterelle pasta
with truffled cashew cream
truffled cashew cream
2 cups filtered water
1 cup raw cashews
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
dash freshly grated nutmeg
freshly cracked black pepper
16 ounces angel hair pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound chanterelle or shiitake caps, cleaned, dried, and torn or cut into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons diced shallot
1 tablespoon minced garlic
sea salt, to taste
3 tablespoons truffle oil, or to taste
fresh parsley, for garnish
Make the truffled cashew cream: In a high-powered blender, combine the water, cashews, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, sea salt, nutmeg, and pepper to taste and blend until smooth.
Make the pasta: Bring a large pot of water with a healthy amount of salt to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package instructions until al dente (keep in mind that the pasta will continue to cook). Remove at least 1 cup of the pasta water to use later and drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the pot, toss with a drizzle of olive oil, cover, and set aside.
Make the mushrooms: In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the edges start to brown slightly, about 7 minutes. Remove half of the mushrooms for garnish. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the shallots and garlic. Cook for an additional 5 to 7 minutes, until the shallots and garlic are golden brown and the remaining mushrooms are crispy.
Pour the cashew cream into the skillet with the mushrooms and stir constantly until the cashew cream begins to thicken, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the pasta. Using tongs, toss the pasta until thoroughly coated. If desired, add some pasta water to loosen the sauce. Drizzle the white truffle oil on top and sprinkle on the white truffle sea salt. Place the reserved mushrooms on top and garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.
lagniappe: If the mushrooms are dirty, rinse them under running water and dry them thoroughly in a salad spinner. You want to remove all of the moisture for effective cooking.