Biscuits and gravy is a staple round these parts. I've gone through many iterations of gravy over the last few years: hemp milk based using a roux (too bitter/earthy), soy milk based using a roux (consistency issues, would break a bit after addition of lemon juice), and raw cashew based (good but wasn't quite there). In most cases I used TVP flavored with sage and red pepper flake as my sausage substitute, and while good, sometimes you just need to use all the mushrooms to make a great brunch.
But the last handful of times I've made biscuits and gravy I've added a new player to the game: cauliflower! Why cauliflower? Why not cauliflower I will snap back. It stemmed from a) having half a head of cauliflower in the crisper that needed to be used soon and b) remembering seeing cauliflower based alfredo sauces a few times around the old internet. The first attempt wasn't anything special, I was shocked at how not cauliflowery it tasted, which was good. The texture was surprisingly smooth and creamy (though a Vitamix makes anything smooth).
While definitely a good addition to my gravy arsenal, it was lacking a little bit of body and oomph that I knew could be obtained by tossing in some raw cashews. The fat from the nuts gave the gravy a richness that was lacking before and made it a much more luscious gravy. As a mushroom lover, I used two types of mushrooms for this dish to serve two separate purposes. The shiitakes were cooked to drive almost all the water out of them, leaving behind crispy little bits that taste like bacon and work great sprinkled on top of the dish. Having them sliced to 1/8-1/4 inch thick really does the trick here. The button mushrooms were cut radially to keep some body to them and were sauteed at a much higher temp to quickly brown them.
I won't go into biscuit making here as that could be a blog post in and of itself, but I will say that I really love the Minimalist Baker's biscuit recipe. One of the few recipes online that I don't tweak or modify in some way, which says something really nice about that recipe. Once you have the biscuits made, and the gravy is thoroughly blended, add it all to the button mushrooms and heat it back up. At this point taste and re-season if you must. I usually add a ton more fresh cracked pepper because a good peppery gravy is the stuff dreams are made of. When it's all set to your liking, ladle the mushroom gravy over the biscuits, and then sprinkle with your shiitake bacon.
- Half head of cauliflower, cut into large chunks
- 1/3 cup of cashews
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
- 2 cups of cooking liquid
- 8 ounces of thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
- 1 pound of button mushrooms
- Salt and pepper
Simmer the cauliflower, cashews, onions, and garlic in lightly salted water for 5-10 minutes until the cauliflower is soft. Add the simmered vegetables and nuts along with with 2 cups of the boiling liquid and 1 tbsp of lemon juice to your blender. Blend on high for at least 1-2 minutes until creamy. Let sit until the mushrooms are ready.
While the vegetables are simmering, take the shiitake mushrooms and saute them with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper with 1/2 tablespoon of oil until brown and crispy over medium high heat. Toss every few minutes to ensure even browning. You don't want the heat too high or else you'll start burning the mushrooms before they've released every last drip of liquid. This is the best, easiest way to make shiitake bacon.
Take the rest of the mushrooms, slice them, and saute them over high heat with 1 tablespoon of oil and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper until browned. Add gravy, stir, bring to a simmer, and serve over biscuits.