Cooking with Truffles

The truffle is a delicate fungus; please cook with care

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By David Hammond

I’ve enjoyed truffles – the black and white fungi hunted by hogs and dogs in France and elsewhere – at several restaurants.

Before last week, I had cooked with them only once, and that was last winter in Geneva, Switzerland. We’d bought a small truffle (for about $40) that we used in pasta. 

But I screwed up: I cut the truffle at least 45 minutes before I added it to the noodles, and the slices became dried out and less flavorful long before dinner.

The truffle is a delicate fungus.

Frank Brunacci, the former Chef at Sixteen in Trump Tower, recently went into the business of selling truffles. Last week, I took delivery of a bagful of Australian Perigord truffles. This was more truffles than I’d ever had before, and it actually made me a little nervous just holding the bag in my hands.

Opening the bag, the earthy scent of the truffles was powerful, a little like olives, but woodsy, deep.

The morning after we received them, we woke up and made some scrambled eggs with shaved black truffle. I thought this simple preparation would foreground the flavor of the fungus.

But I screwed up: I made some Mulefoot pork bacon with the eggs and truffles, and the wonderfully unctuous and flavorful fat of this meat overwhelmed the truffle.

After breakfast, there was some egg and truffle left in the pan, so I ate them to clean up the pan…and then I tasted it, the slightly sharp, unmistakable tang of the truffle, coming through cleanly over the eggs.

Because we had a fair amount, we decided to store most of them: we packed some in clarified butter and others in olive oil and froze them (the grease keeps the truffle from drying out); we packed them dry in some Three Sisters polenta and also in Spanish rice, which will infuse the grains with truffleness; and we vacuum-sealed and froze a few.

We also kept a few fresh to have in our eggs the next day, without bacon, because when you have a foodstuff this rare, it seems best to respect it by enjoying it in the most straightforward way possible.


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David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 26th, 2011 8:43 AM

Truffles loaded inside grilled hamburgers worked very well; flavor of truffle infused throughout meat.

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