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Thursday, February 23, 2006 

Black Truffles - Heaven From Earth

Though I'm not likely to be dropping $140 for an ounce of black truffle, I read S. Irene Virbila's column in the Los Angeles Times this week with interest.

There is almost a mystical allure to the black truffle these days, and it seems any product with even a trace of it is priced through the roof. Close examination usually reveals no more than a speck of the truffle in the actual product.

Virbila talks about purchasing whole truffles (also in bulk) and putting them into omelets, chicken, even a baked potato.

At the farmers market that Sunday, I bought some free-range eggs and the minute the truffles arrived, I put them in a jar with the eggs. That way the eggs take in some of the truffle aromas and flavor. When you make scrambled eggs with those truffle-infused eggs, the taste is explosive; intensified, of course, when you add in more truffle, julienned.

These truffles were beautiful, knobbly and coal black, a little smaller than golf balls, with all of their perfume intact. Every day that passes, though, they lose weight, flavor and aroma. Use them soon, or lose them.

I had no trouble at all with that. One truffle went into the scrambled eggs, which we served, à la Chez Panisse, with rafts of country white from La Brea Bakery, cut inch-thick and lightly toasted, then rubbed with garlic and drizzled with a little olive oil. Alongside the saffron-colored eggs we served a pretty little salad of frisée dressed in red wine vinegar and olive oil.

I took a bite of the eggs. I started to hum. And every subsequent bite elicited the same contented purring. In a restaurant, it would have cost four of us a fortune to indulge in anything laced with this amount of truffle. But we'd used just one of our truffles, which weighed in at a little more than an ounce. Divide the cost by four, and this sublime truffle hit seems almost reasonable.
And some more:
So what to do with a second truffle? Roast a chicken with some truffle slices tucked under the skin. We shaved six fine slices and slid them in under the breast. And as the chicken turned a dark gold in the oven, you could see the slices through the transparent skin, promising something delicious.

In fact, the truffles lose much of their taste in the cooking. Most of the flavor comes from truffle butter whisked into the juices just before serving.

Truffle butter? If I had just one truffle, I might be tempted to turn it all into truffle butter. Just mince up the truffle trimmings and fold them into softened unsalted to lightly salted butter, the best you can find. We used Double Devon Cream butter from Trader Joe's. Roll it up into a log and wrap in plastic film. It can then be frozen without losing any of the flavor. The proportion is about one part truffles to two parts butter.

I used some a couple of days later to fold into a baked potato — fantastic! You can toss fresh egg noodles or tagliarini in some of the truffle butter too. The simpler the better.

There's much more in the article. Plus these recipes: