domenica, aprile 20, 2008

truffles - a myth in black and white

truffles - a myth in black and white

Posted by natashalardera

Their aspect is bumpy and a little funny looking. Their surface is often marked by holes of different sizes and many ugly pimples. These precious and mysterious fruits of the earth have seduced men and women throughout the ages and continue to tempt the noble palates of gourmands all over the globe with their unmistakable aroma and flavor.
Truffles, that’s all we have to say. Intense and seductive, there is nothing else in the world like them. British author William Thackeray is known for writing, “Presently we are aware of an odor gradually coming towards us, something musky, fiery, savory, mysterious – a hot, drowsy smell, that lulls the senses and yet inflames them – the truffles were coming.”
Called everything from diamonds of the table to jewels of haute cuisine, truffles inspire chefs from Milan to Tokyo, where they lend their flavor to a variety of exquisite dishes.

“Truffles have a history dating back to antiquity, and over the centuries they have been both revered and feared,” says food writer Judith Sutton, “the ancient Greeks and Romans numbered truffles among their culinary delicacies…More than a few recipes can be found in the first cookbook ever written, Aupicius’s De re Coquinaria, which dates to the first century A.D. Although his recipe combining truffles and garum (a Roman condiment made with fish) probably would not appeal to modern tastes, another of his most famous dishes, truffles wrapped in caul fat before being cooked, can still be found in one form or another in classic French restaurants today.”

They find their space underground between the rough stones and the hardness of the soil, they attack the roots of the trees and get nourishment from them. They grow magically, thanks to a fascinating symbiosis, and they are sniffed out of the soil by either especially trained pigs or dogs in locations that are kept secret by truffle hunters (cavatori in Italian). There have been gunfights, thefts, accusations of fraud, inquiries, even mysterious disappearances of highly trained dogs. The truffle commerce has always been secretive. Truffle hunters try to avoid the law as much as drug dealers. Many hunters prefer the help of dogs because they are easier to control. Pigs are known to be eager to eat the little tubers before the hunters can dig them up. Dogs instead, stand back and let them collect their bounty.

There are four seasons of truffle hunting and production: whites (Tuber Magnatum Pico), are sourced from September through December, blacks (Tuber Melanosporum Vitt) from December through March, Bianchetti (Tuber Albidum Pico) from February through
March, and Black Summer Truffles (Uncinatum) from may through December. Whites have an unmistakable taste but loose their aroma during cooking. Therefore they are most often shaved over hot food and served immediately. Black winter truffles have an earthy, intense, somewhat winy fragrance. Their flavor is enhanced when they are warmed or cooked. Bianchetti have a sharp taste and are often added to products like oil or butter. They are similar to the precious whites. Summer Blacks are great in salads, meat and fish dishes. They are somewhat similar to the winter blacks and they are crisp and nutty.

The truffle grounds of Italy produce the best white and black truffles in the world, mostly in Piedmont, with a particular concentration in the area around the town of Alba, and in Umbria. Black truffles are also found in the southeastern Var and Perigord regions of France (where they are called Perigords). In Italy, black truffles are found mostly in the Marches and Umbria. There they are often called Norcia truffles, because of the Umbrian town by that name. From the truffle market in Alba, shipments of fresh truffles are sent around the world to be enjoyed at tables less than 24 hours from when they were unearthed. By the time we get them in North America the price may be as high as $1,250 to $1,500, depending on store location, and fame of the establishment. Executive Chef Michael White is famous for his truffle dishes, such as: Fonduta (white truffle robiola cheese, soft polenta taragna and Piedmontese fondue); Capesanta (seared scallops, braised wild mushrooms, brown butter-truffle vinaigrette); and, Ipoglosso (thyme seared halibut, romanesco cauliflower, black trumpets and truffles).

For everyday truffle pleasure, truffle products are affordable luxuries. An enticing array of possibilities goes a long way. Truffle oil is probably the most versatile of all, being able to enhance almost every dish from risottos to soups (mostly with white), to carpaccios and cured meats (mostly with black). Truffle butter helps everything from pasta, to sandwiches and frittatas. There are also delicious truffle cheeses, sauces, fondues, chocolates, flour and tortellini.

With that in mind we all agree that truffles truly deserve to be an everyday pleasure, from simple contemporary dishes to rare preparations of haute cui

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