A few weeks ago, while perusing our local specialty (i.e. overpriced imported goods) shop, we happened upon a few perfect little black truffles from Western Australia, hermetically sealed in plastic marked with their weight in grams. We were already buying a $14 bar of white chocolate and a good sized hunk of $150/lb Scottish blue cheese, so I hmph’ed to myself in a “good to know they carry fresh truffles should I ever completely lose my shit and decide to buy one” way and put the truffle right back where I found it.
(Un?)Fortunately, Francesco had spotted the truffles, too, and immediately snatched one up to give it a better look. You want it? He asked. Nope! I answered and pretended to be really interested in the Himalayan salt display. But for him, this was just the beginning of the discussion.
He knew I’d never had a fresh truffle despite my love of truffle oil, truffle honey, truffle salt and truffle essence. Despite the fact that my in-laws own two lagotto romagnolo, dogs specifically bred to hunt truffles. Despite the fact that I’m married to a truffle lover from a truffle-producing region. By the time we usually make it to Italy, truffle season is long over and whatever extra truffles the dogs have found have grown moldy in the fridge. (Yes, that actually happens.)
Ever wanting to spoil me, a tendency increased by the sight of my balloon-like belly, Francesco began to work on me. It’s Australian! I’d love to try an Australian truffle! The saleslady says this is the best region for Australian truffles! Look, there are only two truffles left! Who knows when we’ll find another? I can make you a delicious pasta with fresh truffles tonight! I don’t know what it was – it could have been fatigue, though I’m pretty sure it was the suggestion of pasta with truffles – but after only a few nudges I gave in. The truffle – all 34 grams of it – would be ours.
Once I’d agreed to get the truffle, then Francesco started warning me that fresh truffle had a “delicate” flavor and might taste a bit “muddy.” Hmmmmm.
So how was it? The smell alone was enough to drive my decidedly-not-truffle-hunting dog crazy. And it was kind of muddy tasting, and, unlike all the truffle products I know and love, it was delicate. It tasted a bit like you were eating a little slice of earth. Delicious, expensive, earth.
And 34 grams? Was enough to last us three nights. The first night, we grated it over pappardelle tossed with butter and Parmesan. The second night, we had it over sunny-side up eggs and toast. The third night, and my favorite of all, we polished it off as an appetizer grated on fresh bread with olive oil and salt.
Would I buy another fresh truffle? I don’t know. I certainly wouldn’t turn (a free) one down. This next admission will automatically revoke any and all future invites to join a foodie club, but I think I prefer the truffle-infused stuff over the real thing. At least at this stage in my fresh truffle education. I’m still more than open to trying fresh truffles, don’t get me wrong. Just as long as someone else is footing the bill.
PASTA WITH FRESH TRUFFLES
fresh (good quality dried) egg pappardelle
a few good hunks of butter
some Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Boil the pasta in salted water until just al dente then drain and return it to the pot. While the pasta boils, gently but thoroughly scrub the truffle. To the pot, add the butter and half the cheese, and stir over very low heat to bring it all together, adding more butter or cheese if necessary.
Serve pasta into individual bowls and grate truffle generously on top using either a truffle slicer or a good microplane. Season with salt to taste.