Truffles are a special ingredient and you should know how best to serve them and what not to do. Since they are extremely expensive (and it should go without saying), a little goes a long way – and at those prices, they should!
While there are nearly 60 species of Truffles, only a dozen have value in the culinary world. While Winter and Summer Black Truffles are from different varieties of fungi, Winter and Summer White Truffles are from the same fungus, only harvested during different seasons of the year.
Truffles are at their best within a few days of being unearthed. To fully appreciate them, pair them with simpler foods. The truffle is the star of the show and serves to accent the target dish. Given their cost, the last thing you want to do is dilute their essence in a complicated or overpowering dish. Typical truffle companions are scrambled eggs, omelets, pastas, salads and risotto. They pair well with poultry, fish and veal.
To serve, truffles are normally thinly sliced or shaved, sometimes with specially designed implements and then sprinkled over or mixed into such dishes. White truffles are never cooked, but black truffles can be incorporated into sauces. Both are also incorporated into butter and cheese spreads. Truffle butter is popular as a means to preserve tartufi for much longer than the peak flavor of fresh truffles and it provides a way to enjoy the taste long after the season is over. You can find luxurious truffle products including truffle salt and truffle cream. There is summer truffle in olive oil, olives and summer truffle sauce, Parmigiano Reggiano and truffle cream, porcini mushroom cream with truffles. There are gourmet cheeses that are remarkably complex in flavor – Moliterno Black Truffle Pecorino, Boschetto al Tartufo Bianchetto or Boschetto al Tartufo Stagionato, to name a few. You can find truffles in pasta, in salami and in mousse. A good place to check for these gourmet products is with D. Coluccio & Sons of Brooklyn, NY. They are importers of the finest in Italian products.
For the past 15 years or so, truffle oil has been a popular way to introduce the character of truffles into dishes. The jury seems to be out about “true” olive oil infused with white truffles. The market abounds with oils that employ synthetically produced truffle essence. Truffle companies are secretive and provide little to illuminate their production techniques. An example of such oil is one that is described as 100 % organic, made from dried truffles and other ingredients with flavors similar to truffle. Just as in the case with true Balsamic vinegar, price can often be used to distinguish the bona fide product from the substitute. Real white truffle oil is expensive. A good one to try is Colavita Truffolio.
Freezing Truffles – Yes or No?
A trick that can be used at home to preserve black truffles is to place shavings in an ice cube container and cover with extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil freezes solid at 10°F and does not damage the oil. Most home freezers are set for -3°F, so you can freeze the truffles at home. Tightly cover the ice cube tray once the oil has frozen. In this way, you’ll have single portions of truffles to cook whenever you’d like, just let the oil thaw, perfect for adding to homemade pasta. One word of caution – this technique doesn’t work well with white truffles, they are too delicate, although you would never expect that to be the case, given how pungent they are!
Tortino di Tartufi
(White Truffles Tortino with Potatoes and Parmigiano)
One of the most decadent ways to serve truffles is in a tortino – thinly sliced boiled potatoes layered with generous shavings of white truffle and a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano.
- 12 ounces boiled potatoes
- 5 tablespoons butter
- ground black pepper in a grinder
- 2 oz. fresh whole white truffle, brushed and clean of all surfaces
- 3 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano shaved into thin strips with a peeler or vegetable slicing tool.
Wash the potatoes, cover and boil them in their skins. Preheat oven to 450°F. Drain the potatoes and once cool enough to handle, peel. Allow them to cool completely, then slice them into thin rounds. Coat the bottom of a baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter, then cover with a layer of potato slices sprinkled with salt and ground black pepper. Using a truffle slicer or other vegetable slicing tool, ever-so-thinly slice enough white truffle to cover the potatoes. Top with a layer of Parmigiano slivers, then dot with butter. Repeat the procedure for each layer. Bake in the upper shelf of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the Parmigiano melts and forms a light crust. Allow the heat of the dish to subside before serving. Serve with slices of crusty, country-style bread.
Alba White Truffle Risotto
This is a simple, classic risotto has a few subtle twists followed by a show-stopping finish – white Alba truffles.
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
- ½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1 small onion, small diced
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp. Alba white truffle bits
- ½ cup dry white vermouth
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
- ½ tsp minced fresh rosemary
- 1 quart + 1 cup chicken stock
- fresh white Alba truffles
Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Put the chicken stock in a separate small pot over medium low flame. Add the onion and rosemary to the pan sauté until the onion is tender. Add the white truffle bits and the Arborio rice. Stir the rice for about a minute to coat it with the oil. Deglaze the pan with the vermouth. Increase the heat to medium-high heat. When the vermouth has evaporated, add a cup of the chicken stock. Continue to simmer, stirring frequently. When the liquid has mostly evaporated, add an additional ¾ cup. Continue to cook, adding more stock as necessary, until the rice is almost cooked to your preference. When you’re down to the last cup of chicken stock, add the butter to it. Add the Parmigiano cheese, then pour in the remaining stock (with the butter). Take the rice off the heat and continue stirring so that the stock slowly absorbs into the rice. Keep stirring until it reaches the consistency you prefer. Serve the risotto in bowls topped with shavings of white Alba truffles.