Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A White Truffle Dinner

I don't typically get anxious about having company over for dinner. In fact, I rather enjoy it - why else do it? This past Sunday, however, was an exception. Not because of the guests, but because of the dinner to be cooked. Not because of the recipes, but because of the ingredient-of-honour. The tuber magnatum pico is not to be trifled with - mishandle it, and you might as well be watching those Euros dissipate into thin air.

How did we manage to procure them straight from Alba? Not through any ingenuity on my part, that's for sure. Lucky for us, we have friends who have friends - the former, namely, being the incredibly well-connected and resourceful Chubby Hubby & S.

While the goods only arrived a few days before Sunday, this was a meal W & I have been discussing ever since we ordered the truffles - which is to say, quite a few weeks. After much consulting of cookbooks and wringing of hands (me; W already had definite ideas about which dishes he wanted me to put on the menu), the following ensued. While a multi-course affair, we decided we would blow the truffles on a couple of dishes as opposed to stretching them across all. I think there are few things meaner, more pointless, and ironically enough, wasteful, than a few token shavings - it's imperative to use enough if you are after the full effect.

Porcini Tagliatelle with Poached Egg, Truffle Hollandaise and White Truffle Shavings
This was inspired by one of our favourite dishes from Buon Ricordo in Sydney - fettuccine al tartufovo, or fettuccine with cream and parmesan, topped with a truffle-infused egg. Instead of making plain egg pasta, I flavoured the pasta dough with dried porcini - soaked, cooked, and finely minced - which imparts a distinctive savour. The porcini pasta dough recipe comes from Giuliano Bugialli's Bugialli on Pasta.

I had stored both the eggs (for poaching as well as for making the hollandaise) and the butter (for the hollandaise) with the truffles overnight in tightly sealed jars - the aroma of truffles best clings to foods rich in fat, such as eggs and butter. This allows you to really layer and build a dish utterly permeated with the heady perfume, a foundation of flavour to support the final anointment of truffle shavings.

Pig's Trotters stuffed with Truffled Confit of Pork Neck, with Sage & Onion Polenta and Madeira Jus
No white truffles here; instead, the dish features the earthy flavours of dried porcini, truffle juice, and preserved summer truffles. I've loosely based it on a recipe from BĂ©casse: Inspirations and Flavours by Justin North, a beautiful book showcasing the much-lauded food from one of Sydney's most critically acclaimed restaurants. It's a dish Chef North says is inspired by the legendary Pierre Koffman.

I have a bit of a weakness for trotters. It may take a bit of effort to coax a thing of deliciousness from this oft-ignored part of the pig. But take the time to lavish it with love, treat it with the same respect you would accord a far more expensive cut, and you'll be rewarded with something so undeniably good, so unctuously satisfying, that even the unadventurous (or unsuspecting - the presentation is fairly elegant) will be asking for seconds.

Carnaroli Risotto with Shaved White Truffles from Alba
An absolute Piedmontese classic, and I think one of the best ways of showing off the white truffle's incomparable flavour. I like Thomas Keller's recipe from The French Laundry Cookbook.

It does, however, depart from traditional technique in two significant respects that would probably make a risotto purist shudder - a two-part cooking method that allows you to make the risotto "base" the day before and shortens the final cooking time to less than 10 minutes, and the last-minute beating in, the mantecatura, of - aside from the usual butter and parmesan - some heavy cream whipped to soft peak stage. This technique of folding whipped cream into risotto is one that Chef Keller attributes to Alain Ducasse - while the cream will "melt" out of its whipped form, it coats each individual grain of rice with greater ease than had it been unwhipped.

Vanilla, Brown Butter & Hazelnut Cake with Warm White Chocolate & Truffle Honey Filling; Truffle Honey Ice Cream; Apricots in Vanilla & Earl Grey Tea Caramel
When I saw the picture of Kate Zuckerman's lovely spin on financier in The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle, I knew I had to have the book. It struck me as the blonde, buttery, nutty cousin of this dark and sultry number, and is no less irresistible thanks to the ooze factor. It also struck me as a recipe ripe for playing around with - the very best kind of recipe, if you ask me - and play around I did, keeping in mind the truffle theme. Again, no white truffles here. Instead, that divine nectar known as truffle honey.

The original financier batter in the book uses ground almonds, and the filling is a vanilla custard. I used ground hazelnuts in the batter simply because the flavours of hazelnut and truffle honey are gorgeous together and I had flavoured the white chocolate ganache (which liquefies into the molten centres when the baby cakes are baked) with truffle honey. The recipe for the accompanying truffle honey ice cream (which I've written about previously) comes from Giorgio Locatelli's Made in Italy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like the truffle was put to good use!

I've heard the virtues of truffles extolled all over the blogosphere (as well as in my cookbooks) but I've never had the opportunity to actually taste them myself.

After reading this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truffle#Most_expensive_truffle), I can't wait to try this delicacy for myself and see if it lives up to the hyped up image in my head ;)

8:07 pm, December 05, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love white truffles and this post was so beautiful that I can taste it in my head!

Oh, to be a guest in your home that night.... heaven!

8:17 pm, December 05, 2006  
Blogger Pille said...

I haven't had a chance to taste any truffles either. Yet:)
But I'm utterly amazed what you've done to the pig's trotters - they look amazing when stuffed! Any chance of a recipe? Please?

8:35 pm, December 05, 2006  
Blogger His Food Blog said...

The Porcini Tagliatelle with Poached Egg, Truffle Hollandaise and White Truffle Shavings is sinful enough to be my favourite....gosh I would love to try it!!!

11:19 pm, December 05, 2006  
Blogger Veron said...

I've been trying to post a comment earlier but got an error..so if duplicates show up I apologize...

What lovely dishes...I could almost taste them! I just
had a truffle indulgence myself over at my blog...I must confess
I blew the whole truffle on one dish...
White Winter Truffle on Risotto

5:09 am, December 06, 2006  
Blogger Anita said...

Bravo! Your dinner guests were very lucky indeed! Of course, it was the dessert that really caught my eye:)

10:24 am, December 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm plotting to get a truffle soon too.... but whatever I create (and I love the idea of the tagliatelle with poached egg etc) it will bear no resemblance to your extraordinary creations. Simply exquisite!

4:32 pm, December 06, 2006  
Blogger Grethel said...


I usually visit your blog, and its is really enjoyable.


7:50 pm, December 06, 2006  
Blogger Andreea said...

oh-my-god! do i need to say more? have to admit that i didn't try turflles yet so this post is one more push.

12:32 am, December 07, 2006  
Blogger shuna fish lydon said...

I love when people make a warm dessert that is not the obvious melty chocolate cake one. I, too, was intrigued by that book-- thanks for the reminder.

Btw, you're my latest blog crush. Marc sent me your way-- thanks for writing and photographing so exquisitely.

2:01 am, December 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another mouthwatering masterpieces from you, J. The plated pig's trotters with sage and onion polenta is best viewed large - looks incredibly delicious. Oh, and the cake too. drool.


7:57 pm, December 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my.. Drooling over here!

9:06 pm, December 07, 2006  
Blogger Cerebrum said...

My goodness, Joycelyn - leave it to you to make pig trotters look that appealing! Amazing! And white truffles? *swooning here*

9:46 pm, December 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so jealous of your guests! The cake looks amazing.

6:52 am, December 08, 2006  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Wow, simply a goregous meal. I love the fact that you did everything you could to make th ebest use of the truffles. You have my undying admiration.

8:33 pm, December 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arrgh! You're driving me crazy with envy here. I've never tasted fresh white truffle, though I always have a bottle of oil in my cupboard. One of my life goals is to get myself to Piedmont in late Fall one of these years and eat it in as many forms as I can possibly find. Until then, I'll just have to content myself with drooling at your pictures... (p.s. I just saw a jar of truffle honey the other day and am kicking myself for not buying it - that dessert looks spectacular!)

12:58 am, December 11, 2006  
Blogger Gustad said...

i loooove trotters. what did you actualy stuff did you empty out the meat and what not, and stuff a half a foot, or...??

12:15 am, December 12, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing dessert and great photos, congratulations!
They remind me of my Truffle Soufflé. Keep up the good work!

2:34 pm, December 13, 2006  
Blogger Steffles said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:02 pm, December 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

J, what a decadent meal - I can almost smell the earthy rustic flavours off your page.

Hats off! You make ordinary trotters look so divine! And I'm a fan of the "ooze factor" too, I'm all heady by the hazelnut cake with warm white chocolate lava.

1:04 pm, December 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's nothing in the world like the aroma of a fresh, ripe white truffle. We were in Piemonte this fall and if I sit quietly I can still relive the smell. Shaved over buttered pasta or scrambled eggs -- heaven.

9:52 pm, December 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are incredible.

11:44 am, December 16, 2006  
Blogger Honeybee said...

I'd give anything to tuck into those tagliatelle. They look sooo good. I'm at awe...

3:52 pm, December 29, 2006  
Blogger Jeanne said...

How incredibly jealous you make me - but ooooh, how worth it was just to be able to read about that feast. The dessert sounds incredible - especially as I have a fetish for truffled honey ;-)

11:52 pm, January 15, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

Joyce, this looks fantastic and better than any starred restaurant. Must say that I am REALLY ENVIOUS of my greedy father. Till our next gourmet outing. Cheers.

10:33 pm, March 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fabulous! I am planning my second trip to Piemonte - October, of course! - and came across your menu. Looks lovely. Thank you for the inspiration. Can't wait until fall!

7:44 am, May 20, 2007  

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