Demystifying the truffle: ‘Diamonds of the kitchen’
When I was saddled with the responsibility of finding images to accompany this article, I decided to scour one of my favorite food-gasmic platforms; foodporndaily. My fellow food voyeurs would know that a visit to the site entails nothing more than clicking through a seemingly endless series of beautiful plates of food; essentially, more clicks, more noms. They would also know that it has no search function. Thus, there’s no real way of streamlining your search, or looking for what you want – think of it like a food chat-roulette. It took me four clicks to chance upon the truffle, which made frequent appearances in the lineup thereafter.
The truffle has flooded the culinary scene of late due to its ability to take a dish from drab to fab (think ‘french fries’ to ‘truffle oil drizzled house cut fries’). Although it’s used in very small quantities due to its pungent flavor and lofty price, you’d be hard-pressed to find a fine-dining restaurant whose menu isn’t dotted with this luscious ingredient. Mistral, O Ya, La Campania, Hamersley’s, Bistro Du Midi, and practically every other restaurant on Zagat’s Best of Boston list features the truffle in a number of dishes.
An edible fungus, which grows underground, the truffle was traditionally ‘excavated’ by female pigs due to their innate ability to ‘sniff them out’. This, interestingly, is due to the presence of a compound in the truffle, which is similar to a pheromone released in the male pigs saliva. While truffles occur naturally in France and Italy, they are now cultivated and excavated (by specially trained dogs) the world over (Spain, USA, New Zealand, Australia), albeit in limited quantities.
Today, truffles are available fresh, frozen, brined or in the form of truffle salt, truffle oil, truffle butter, artisanal truffle cheese, truffle cream, truffle vodka, truffle honey (try it with fresh Ricotta at Otto, if you’re ever in The City). Whether shaved thinly over a bowl of steaming pasta, sliced and slipped into pieces of meat to infuse flavor, or layered into a delicate sabayon, the truffle is the culinary world’s “black gold.”
Truffle Fun Facts:
- The first truffles produced outside of Europe, were produced in Oregon in 1991.
- Often described as having a sultry, near-erotic flavor, truffles were kept away from Monks in the middle ages lest it make them stray from their life of chastity.
- Stanley Ho, a Macau billionaire, made history in 2010, paying a lofty $330,000 for 2 exquisite, whole white truffles.
Cover photo source.