The truffle is one of several varieties of edible mushroom. Its culinary usage dates back to the early Roman Empire where they were considered a rare delicacy created when lightning struck warm, wet soil. Truffle hunting continued in Europe past the Fall of Rome with the wild mushroom gaining vast popularity among the aristocracy during the Renaissance. Resistant to cultivation efforts, pigs were used to sniff them out in the vast forests of Italy and France. The 18th century French lawyer and foodie Jean Anthelem Brillat-Savarin dubbed them "the diamond of the kitchen". Now I know what all the fuss is about.
The Wegman's in Abingdon carries truffles. Sometime while I was in Italy, my counterpart decided that one day we would venture into this new world of true delicacies, price be damned. And the per pound price is pretty hefty - usually between $300-$600 per pound. But truffles are fairly light, and at the high end of the price spectrum, you can still get them for about $10 each. A little goes a long way, so one or two at a time should be sufficient.
Last night we took the plunge and have now joined the limited population who have had cooked with actual truffles. They are truly unique in flavor and texture. If saffron tastes like sunshine, truffles taste like the forest. They are dark and woody and bitter and add something mysterious to the food. I don't think they are ever the main course, but as a flavor enhancer, they are really quite amazing. For our first truffle experience, Gareth prepared duck breast and eggs with a hollandaise sauce. About half a truffle was grated into the eggs at the very end of cooking. While it was indeed superlative, we both agreed that perhaps eggs weren't the best vehicle for the truffle. We used up less than half of one of them, so we have plenty of opportunity to try again.
|The price tag is a little intimidating.......|
|........But the actual cost per seems reasonable enough|
|Proper storage of truffles is important - rice absorbs the |
|Pan-seared duck breast - my favorite|
|Reserve some of that nice duck jus to cook the eggs in|
|A little brie for the eggs|
|Lemon zest for the hollandaise|
|The finished sauce|
|Nice and rare - just the way I like it|
|Adding the truffles to the eggs|
|Dinner - cheffy eggs with brie and truffles, seared duck|
breast, sauteed leeks, and hollandaise sauce