Transformers

That cauliflower couscous from the last post left me with a shorn head of cauliflower that I couldn’t bear to waste. It may look like a purple brain coral without its florets, but there was still plenty there worth eating, and I roasted it off in slices to make soup. Being in a fridge-cleaning mood, I sliced up the last of my shiitake mushrooms and threw them on the sheet with the cauliflower also.

After infusing my homemade chicken stock with the mushroom stems and pureeing the roasted veggies with some red potatoes for bulk, I ended up with a tasty variation of one of my most favorite soups. The majority of the purple color leaves the cauliflower as it cooks, a byproduct of simmering the water-soluble antioxidants responsible for the hue, but I was alright with that since the liquid is part of the meal. The finished soup had a ruddy brown color that the camera didn’t quite capture, enhanced by the teaspoon of white wine vinegar I stirred in at the end—it gave me a little unexpected chemical reaction, turning the soup a reddish color where I dropped in the acidic vinegar. Cooking is so fun!

When I make cauliflower soup, I usually reserve some of the crispier bits of roasted cauliflower florets for a garnish. This time, as long as I was making a mushroom-infused version of the soup, I decided to do a mushroom garnish as well. I have been meaning to try Anne Burrell’s mushroom chips for several months—she served them in a salad and described them as tasting like crunchy bacon, an intriguing possibility for someone who is still squeamish about the texture of mushrooms. So I roasted up a tray of oyster mushrooms alongside the cauliflower and shiitakes, ending up with very crunchy little chips after about 10 minutes. They tasted a little over-browned to me, so next time I’ll try to pull them a bit sooner, but they did have a very savory quality with some notes in common with bacon. Of course, tossing them with bacon fat or schmaltz instead of olive oil before roasting would probably enhance that aspect even more!

Oyster (Mushroom) Crackers

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove your oyster mushrooms from the stem and pull them into bite-size pieces (the smaller ones can be left whole). Add them to a bowl along with some olive oil (melted and cooled bacon fat or schmaltz would also be delicious). Season with salt and black pepper or red pepper flakes to taste, and toss to coat. Spread the seasoned mushrooms out on baking sheets in a single layer.¬†Roast the mushrooms in the preheated oven until the mushrooms are browned, crisp, and sort of “cooked on” to the bottom of the baking sheet, about 10 to 12 minutes (my sheet was hard-anodized aluminum, so the mushrooms did not glue themselves down). Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let it cool for 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape the¬†mushroom chips off the bottom of the baking sheet with a bench scraper and reserve in a small bowl to garnish soup, salad, or just eat as a snack.

Source: Food Network.

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