Using a high-speed or immersion blender, blend the cashews and liquid together until velvety smooth. Add in a couple dashes of vinegar to counteract the sweetness of the cashews, if desired. Set aside.
to prepare the clams
Melt the plant-based butter in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until softened, turning down the heat a bit if needed. Transfer to a bowl.
Add the soy curls and nori to the pot, cover with water. Bring to a boil and turn off the heat, but leave on the burner for about 10 minutes. Allow to cool. Chop into bite-sized pieces.
Preheat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add a little oil, then the soy curls. Allow to saute, stirring occasionally, until slightly dried out and slightly golden around the edges. Combine with the reserved mushrooms to the side.
to prepare the broth
Using the same pot, melt 1 TB of the butter or oil over medium heat. Add in the chopped vegan bacon, and allow to saute for a couple of minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low, and add a few dashes of the liquid smoke.
Add the celery, onion and garlic to the pot, increase the heat back to medium and stir. After a minute, add in the remaining 1 TB of plant-based butter or a few splashes of broth as needed to reduce sticking. Allow to cook for several minutes, until the onion is soft.
Sprinkle in the thyme, add the bay leaf. Add the stock and potatoes. Allow to come to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are done.
Bring back to a boil, stir in the cornstarch slurry, and stir until slightly thickened.
Stir in the reserved cashew cream and mushrooms+soy curls. Heat through, adding in salt and pepper, and a few dashes of liquid smoke if desired, to taste.
Recipe by Olives for Dinner at http://olivesfordinner.com/2017/12/new-england-vegan-chowder.html