Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Nobody Knows the Truffles I’ve Seen

How could 13 decadent courses, all made with black summer truffles from Italy, have my name on them? Good breeding? A huge inheritance? A get-rich-food quick scheme? Nope. Like Blanche Dubois, I have come to depend on the kindness of bloggers. And boy did I hit pay dirt. Because I was invited to the second annual Trufflepalooza, in which hostess extraordinaire Erika Kerekes of In Erika's Kitchen served dish after dish of truffle-inspired fare. And let me tell you, she really knows how to put the truffle in a palooza.

Each dish was either topped or infused with grated truffle, truffle butter, truffle oil, truffle salt, or truffle honey. Picture this: Radish Truffle Butter Tartines, Truffle-Infused Brie, Ricotta Truffle Honey Crostini, and Creamy Corn Soup with Truffles. Imagine Truffled Egg Salad, Porcini Truffle Dip with Chilled Green Beans, and "Emery's Salad" with Truffle Vinaigrette and Pancetta. Visualize Risotto with Truffles, Roasted Small Potatoes with Truffle Butter, Truffled Mac and Cheese, Grilled Cheese with Truffles, Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter, and Truffle-Flavored Chocolate Truffles. Now, breathe. Was it good for you?

Radish Truffle Butter Tartines
Ricotta Truffle Honey Crostini
I didn't know that much about truffles before the palooza, so post-palooza, I unearthed a few facts. The origin of the word truffle appears to be the Latin word tuber, meaning “lump.” Hence, these underground versions of mushrooms are actually tubers that grow beneath the roots of oak, elm, chestnut, pine and willow trees, mainly in Italy, France, Spain, Croatia and Slovenia. Lesser quality ones are found in Oregon and Washington.

Creamy Corn Soup with Truffles
Risotto with Truffles

The most celebrated types are the white truffle, which is the rarest and most valuable and native to Italy and Croatia; the black winter truffle, also called the black Perigord, named for the region in France, grows exclusively with oak and appears in late autumn and winter. This highly coveted specimen is more pungent and pricey than the black summer truffle from Italy that’s available from June to October. Milder with just the right amount of earthiness for a neophyte like myself, the black summer truffle will only put you in the poorhouse for a few years, provided you have connections.

Truffle-infused Brie
Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter
Since most truffles never break the surface of the soil, they must be detected by animals with a keen sense of smell. Female pigs have been used historically in Europe, as some truffles produce a scent that mimics a male pig sex hormone. More recently, dogs have become the preferred truffle-hunting companion since they can be trained to find the truffles, but aren't as inclined to eat them. Blogger David Lebovitz did a marvelous series on truffle hunting in France with some captivating photos of a truffle hunter and his boisterous pig in search of black winter truffles.

Truffle-Flavored Chocolate Truffles
This little piggy went to market.
This little piggy stayed home.
This little piggy had roast beef.
This little piggy had none.
But this little piggy went to Trufflepalooza and cried, “Woohoo!” all the way home.


  1. You know what's almost as good as truffle cuisine? TRUFFLE POETRY!!!!

    Thanks for helping me prep for this event, Adair - couldn't have done it without you.

  2. This is a terrific post, Adair. You covered everything. I didn't know about the male pig hormone thing. Very interesting. And your photos are great!

  3. Hmmm... may be that little piggy rhyme really is the story of truffle sniffing piggies! GREG

  4. I just discovered your beautiful website through SippitySip. What a feast! I wish I were there and taste the wonderful truffle-flavored chocolate, sounds interesting. :^)

  5. Thanks for the food facts on truffles. I'm now no longer completely clueless. Loved the pigs used for truffle hunting bit and the verse at the end. Between this and pigsweed (purslane), we've been talking a lot about pigs and what they like to eat. Perhaps they should get a little more cred for their discriminating palate?

  6. now you must have been in truffle heaven!! What a great post, thanks for sharing all those wonderful creations with us!

  7. OK, first, the title of this entry needs to go into the Bloggers Hall of Fame.
    Second, I have never tried anything remotely truffley and am indeed intrigued! Nice to meet you :).

  8. Jackie, Chef Dennis and Cookbook Apprentice: Welcome! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  9. and to think I have yet to have a real truffle! man! (save for the chocolate ones, and these I am having on a daily basis, thank you very much)

  10. is the first photo of the truffle in this post your photo or is it someone else's? i was wanting to use this on some printed materials for my company and am seeking for permission.