Pork Free Post: Truffle Extravaganza

24 Oct

Last week was my birthday, a rather ordinary one considering I was turning a boring 31 years old. But that is okay – it was a wonderfully relaxing evening with a fabulous meal cooked by my husband. I couldn’t have asked for a better celebration. However, there was some underlying excitement in the air, due to a cryptic email I received the week prior, which I would learn more about a few days later.

Somehow, in addition to a great husband and family, I’ve also been lucky enough to be surrounded by great friends. Two of these friends gave me a great surprise last Wednesday – they would purchase some fresh, white truffles from Italy. The caveat? I’d have to come over and cook at least one dish for them (they’d also be cooking) and then I’d have to enjoy myself the rest of the evening. Hard decision, right?! I don’t think so.

The hard decision was figuring out what to make, since I have never touched a truffle in it’s pure, unaltered state. It seemed simple enough – just shave the stuff over some food. But I know it is more complicated than that. After a few hours of fiddling around with cookbooks and websites, I decided on two dishes: Warm Sweet Onion Flan with Fonduta, Roasted Shiitake Mushrooms and Shaved White Truffles, and Roasted Asparagus with a Warm Truffled Walnut Vinaigrette.  The latter I’ve made (sans truffles) and was pretty sure it would work; the former was moving into uncharted waters. I was overwhelmed by the different approaches. Eggs or no eggs in the fonduta? How many eggs in the flan? Milk or cream in the fonduta? Milk or cream in the flan? I’ve made sweet flans, but for some reason this whole savory aspect was a bit more involved. Finally, I had to stop obsessing and just come up with something. But the pressure (all, obviously, generated by me) was on – there was no way I was going to mess up my chance with fresh truffles. Nope, not happening.

It helped that I was not the only one that was cooking. Lynn, although a truffle virgin herself, is a great cook and would be making a few things as well. She let me know she’d be making a Watercress and Endive Salad with Truffle-Marinated Avocado and, for the main course, a Crispy Duck Breast with Smashed Potatoes and a Truffle Emulsion. John’s contribution would be perfectly paired wine selections, while Christian’s contribution would be taking pictures.

And so the truffle extravaganza adventure began.

The evening was a blast. While we both agree there could be improvements to our dishes, in the end it was a delicious calorie-counter’s nightmare. The flan was surprisingly light in texture, silky and rich. The duck was juicy, the truffled potatoes were full of flavor, and the truffle emulsion was both creamy and tangy. The smell of fresh truffles was everywhere, and was heightened when shaved onto the hot fonduta or the steaming potatoes. Each course featured the truffles in a different way, and each course wouldn’t have been the same without them.

And there was the wine. John pulled out 3 different bottles of Barolo – two 1997 vintages and a 1993 vintage. Each one was fantastic, but the 1993 was definitely the stand out – it was smooth and full of flavor. The wines really paired well with each of the dishes.

At the end of the night we were completely stuffed. We all just sat around the table rubbing our bellies, not wanting to move. It was a memorable evening with friends and food. I think John’s comment after dinner deserves to be remembered, for a number of reasons:

“We came full circle tonight. The pigs brought this from the earth and we as pigs will return it to the earth”

A day later, it makes me laugh, even though it is rather true.


One Response to “Pork Free Post: Truffle Extravaganza”

  1. jso October 25, 2010 at 10:12 AM #

    hey chef, you nailed it baby! -john

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