The goal was to create and consume a few simple dishes that would showcase the subtle, elegant flavor of my prized black truffle. I enlisted the help of my good friend Michael Hughes, who is equally enthusiastic about the flavorful fungi.
We discussed and revised the menu over the next few days settling on four courses. Each dish was designed to place the truffle in a different role to see how well the flavor and texture worked with different ingredients. Michael, who is a sommelier by trade, picked two wonderful bottles of wine to go with the meal. Click HERE for specifics on the wine and to read his take on the event.
The first course was a wonderfully bright salad made with sliced heirloom tomatoes, pickled fennel, sunflower sprouts, and truffle oil. I pickled the thinly sliced fennel in equal parts rice vinegar and sugar. I left them in the solution for six hours before serving. The truffle oil was a nice earthy foil for the salad's bright acidity.
Next we dove into a simple miso soup made with white miso paste, small cubes of firm tofu, winter greens, green onions, and shaved truffles. White miso is the mildest miso paste with its slightly sweet, fermented flavor it tastes similar to unfiltered sake.
The warm miso broth caused the truffle to become very aromatic. These flavors went very well together. The addition of the sliced green onions lent a light, grassy note that the dish needed. This is something I would make again.
The third course was, in my opinion, the best of the evening. It was a rich souffle of sautéed cremini and porcini mushrooms, aged comté cheese, and sliced truffles. The dish was Michael's idea, but he had never made a soufflé before. I walked him through the steps as we put it together. I was concerned that the delicate flavor of the truffle would be lost among the other ingredients, but that did not happen. This was the hit of the evening.
We couldn't stop there. I prepared a simple carbonara with homemade pasta, cream, eggs, smoked sea salt, and shaved truffles. It was simple and delicious. I particularly loved the way the truffle tasted with the addition of the smoked salt (a thoughtful gift from my sister-in-law).
It was a truly memorable meal. The Wife, Michael, and I were joined by my old friend Justin, who was in town for the holidays. So, needless to say, at the end of the night we were all truffled-out. However, I feel that I understand the complex flavor of the truffle much better after our little experiment.
Next on the wish list: a white truffle. I'll keep you posted.