My Life in Truffles

white truffle black truffle mixed truffles

The truffle is not a true aphrodisiac; but in certain circumstances it can make women more affectionate and men more attentive. -Brillat-Savarin

Wow, what a tempting proposition – affection and attention all in one small tuber. Reality is often not as romantic. My first exposure to truffles was a completely underwhelming one. While working in France, I was given a truffle preserved in cognac and told to make a special of a salad of poached lobster with truffle mayo. It was a simple enough salad, based on fresh well handled ingredients with a fresh mayonnaise built up with the liquor from the truffle and a little of the tuber shredded in.

A non-chef friend who was visiting me came into the kitchen and we chatted as I prepared my mis-en-place. He asked what I was working with and as soon as I said truffle, he grabbed the black orb and took a lusty bite out of it. I watched in horror as he spit most of it into the garbage ” I thought it was chocolate” he meekly sputtered between scraping his tongue with his upper teeth.

My god, I thought, how am I going to hide this from the chef! Luckily I went to the fridge and saw a stock pile on the shelf, up until today it’s been our little secret.

For the first while I was disillusioned with my truffle experience, I thought they were a mix of cognac, old socks and guilt. It was my first trip to forage for truffles that really opened my eyes. I talked a co-worker into introducing me to his truffle hunting uncle, Marc. We headed off to the oak forest armed with a knapsack, laguiole knife  and a walking stick. Marc looked for several tell tale signs on the forest floor. A burning (dry patch of ground)  near the base of the oaks, He also looked for the activities of rodents and squirrels (pretty much the same thing in my mind – and my dog Cooper) and flies buzzing around these areas. All are attracted to the odor of the ripe truffles. Much to my surprise, these tips soon landed us with 3 or 4 nice orbs of black truffle. The smell was amazing with these fresh specimens.

laguiole

The Classic Laguiole Knife

We worked our way back to Marc’s cabin (actually a shack made of recycled odds and ends)  and we cooked up a batch of fresh eggs, fire scorched bread (sorry but it wasn’t toast Marc), local cheese and wine dispensed from a recycled water bottle. The truffles were hacked with the laguiole (the indispensable knife of most Frenchmen) and it might have been the best and most satisfying meal I’ve experienced.

In my many experiences with truffles since that day, they generally pale in the comparison. Assaults with cheap truffle oil and stale truffles that taste like burnt rubber have slightly jaded my perspective. An encounter with properly handled truffles always restores my faith. Aromatic white truffles from Italy, black truffles from France, Tasmania and Tennessee, foraged truffles from Oregon – all have been interesting albeit expensive solutions for my truffle cravings. I’m also encourage by the pioneering work of several farmers on Vancouver Island who are in the process of establishing our own homegrown truffle industry. They are growing black Perigord Truffles generally planted in the roots of Hazelnut trees. Good luck and god speed to those black  morsels, we need all the help we can get to make women more affectionate and men more agreeable.

I’ll be hosting a truffle cooking class on the farm on December 5 and a multi-course dinner on December 12

1) Triffling with Truffles – Cooking class –

Saturday December 5, 12:00 noon – 5:00 pm

$125 / person including recipes

2) Truffle Dinner

Saturday December 12th 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Truffled deviled eggs with artisan smoked bacon

Truffle Veloute

Fresh egg pasta with butter, fresh truffle and artisan Parmesan cheese

Terrrine of scallops and prawns with a black truffle aioli

Fresh truffle risotto with red wine braised lamb shank

Chocolate truffle tarte with hazelnut ice cream

$125 / person including recipes

For more info see:

www.magnorth.bc.ca

About Bill Jones

Chef, Author and Forager
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