Truffle

Truffle

By
From
Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

One of nature’s best kept secrets, the truffle has resisted exploitation by modern agriculture until recent years. It is an edible fungus which grows underground, usually near oak trees, in many parts of the world. Not all truffles, however, have the same quality. The most esteemed are the black truffles from the Périgord in France, closely followed by the white truffles found in the Piedmont area of northern Italy. Excellent truffles are now grown in Australia but are still very expensive to buy.

The harvest takes place around late autumn, with the aid of specially trained pigs or dogs who sniff out the elusive truffles. Some truffles are used fresh, particularly for Christmas specialties such as roast truffled turkey, truffled boudin blanc (white pudding) or truffled goose liver pâté; others go into manufactured foods or are tinned for year-round use.

Outside France and Italy, truffles usually come in tins – either as whole small truffles, truffle pieces or peelings, or truffle juice. Tinned truffles or truffle pieces may be used in any recipe calling for truffles, and truffle juice may be used in a sauce. Even the peelings can be used to add flavour to a sauce, but should be removed before serving.

Truffles are, arguably, the most expensive ingredient a kitchen could have, but fortunately only a very small amount is required to perfume and flavour a dish.

In almost all dishes, it is best to add the truffle to whatever it is intended to perfume and then leave for several hours, at least, to allow the perfume of the truffle to permeate the food. Tinned truffles are not nearly as flavoursome as fresh ones, but they can be improved if soaked in Madeira or port when removed from the tin.

Ways to use truffles: Fresh truffles finely shaved are good with steamed potatoes, pasta, poached or scrambled eggs and steamed chicken. When, as is almost always the case, the supply of truffles is limited, use the truffle in a dish which will make the most of its flavour, rather than attempting to duplicate, with one small tin of truffles, a dish which requires several large truffles. Use a small truffle to advantage in a terrine or pâté; with a loin of pork for roasting; slipped under the skin of a plump chicken before gently poaching; or added to a flavoursome brown Madeira sauce and served with perfectly cooked beef fillet or a warm, poached chicken liver mousse. Italians shave thin slices over freshly cooked pasta.

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