There are very few things in this world that I love more than Gary (and Yoda, of course); and though I will not say that a perfect Italian white truffle is one of them, it is certainly one of my very favorite things. Extremely aromatic, filled with damp earthy aromas, yet quite delicate in flavor, truffles are one of the most prized foods in the world.
Our dear friend, Andrew Ormsby of Andrew Ormsby Catering, cooks for a family every Thanksgiving and, if we are lucky, returns with one of these stunning white truffles.
This year marks the fifth time I have had truffle night with him; because of Gary’s previous work schedule he hadn’t experienced truffle night until this year….and man….it is something to experience, appreciate and indulge in.
These rare fungi are found mostly in France and Italy, but in recent years black summer truffles have been found in Washington State and Oregon, though nothing is as beautiful as the winter white truffle. They grow under ground, often near trees, and for years were hunted by pigs; though most recently pigs have been traded in for dogs as the pigs would often be found eating the profits. Truffle hunters are very protective of their truffle patches, and though you may be privileged enough to go on a truffle hunt, however you may be blindfolded on the trip there in order to protect the area the truffles grow in. And for good cause – truffles can cost up to $1000+ a pound!
The white truffles usually come from the Piedmont region of Italy, most well known around the city of Alba, and grow around oak trees. As the regional food should often match the regional wine think of drinking big reds with these little fungi. Nebbiolo and Barbera are two grapes from the region that shine with truffle (Nebbiolo is the grape in Barolo – big, bold and intense with great aging potential to create velvety wine perfect for heaty meals; Barbera D’Asti when drunk young is very aromatic with lots of red fruit, with a bit of aging a silky wine emerges, filled with black cherry and blackberry.) A good glass of bubbly is also always appropriate as the nutty aromas and high acidity will balance well with the aromatic truffle.
Over the years truffle night has included black truffle soup with white truffle shavings; buttered noodles with truffle; scrambled eggs with truffle (one of the most famous uses for a pure truffle); truffle risotto; or just my favorite – hot baguette with salted butter and white truffle shavings.
This year was risotto with porcini and white truffle, and that perfect bite from a baguette. I made a big salad with lots of Champagne vinegar, like we had on our Italian night a few weeks ago, to cut through some of the richness in the meal. You can also make a traditional mushroom risotto, recipe follows, and add a healthy dash of truffle oil on at the end just before serving. One tip, if you buy truffle oil store it in the refrigerator to keep it fresh and the aromas pungent.
Truffle night is such a rare experience, and one that I am thankful for each and every time we do it. Thank you Andrew!!
Mushroom Risotto with Truffle
1 1/2 cup Arborio rice
4 cups good chicken stock (like Cento)
1 cup white wine or Champagne (Andrew and Gary used Champagne this night and it added a little extra acidity…nice with the creamy, dreaminess of the risotto)
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
1 cup chopped mushrooms (your favorite types – chanterelle, baby bellas, oyster)
3 oz dried porcini mushrooms, chopped and rehydrated with liquid
2 tablespoons Marscapone cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley for garnish
Truffle oil for garnish
In a large heavy bottom pot saute garlic and onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil until the garlic is golden and shallots are translucent. Add rice, about 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and salt and Italian herbs and cook until the rice is coated with oil. Add mushrooms, rehydrated porcini and the liquid (make sure to strain in a coffee filter to remove any grit from the mushrooms.) Add the wine and stir constantly until almost dissolved. Begin adding chicken stock 1 ladle full at a time and stir continuously. Continue adding stock as soon as one ladle dissolves until all stock is incorporated and rice is al dente. Mix in the Marscapone and parmesan cheese and adjust seasoning to your taste. Just before serving drizzle a tablespoon or so of truffle oil (white or black) over the top of the risotto and a sprinkle of parsley. Serve while still warm and creamy.