It’s a cool summer’s morning in the gently undulating hills of Piedmont, Italy. Mist gently clings to the slopes and a team of two is out in the countryside searching intently. Following the gentle tapping of the cane on the ground, one of the men deftly uses his keen senses to see through and into the earth for the treasure the two after. He picks up the scent and digs feverishly, throwing the soil behind him until he’s pulled off by his master and his master takes his trowel and carefully plucks the gnarled white, nearly-priceless treasure from the ground.
Truffles are one of those foods that evoke emotion, imagery, luxury and define what a delicacy is, in us. Growing in a select few regions across the world and only found with the help of specially trained dogs or swine, they are treasured the world over for their taste and rarity. As such, they command a premium price of about $14,000 per kilogram, putting them out of reach of the palettes of most of us. Or does it?
While it’s true that a dish made with a generous amount of white, black or burgundy truffles might be a rare indulgence to be had on very few occasions, one can have the taste of truffles brought to a variety of dishes in their everyday cooking.
Due to their intense flavor, only a small amount of truffle is needed when preparing many dishes, averaging around 7-16 grams of fresh truffle per serving. While this isn’t a frugal amount, it’s not so extravagant as to make you want to flash-freeze it and treat it as currency.
More often than not, most recipes either call for truffle butter or truffle oil. Both of which you can make yourself or pick up at reasonable prices. Truffle butter is easy to prepare yourself and will keep for some time. It’s a wonderful ingredient to use when preparing a meal for a special occasion.
Truffle oil is an intensely fragrant and tasting ingredient that you have to be careful when purchasing. A lot of “truffle oil” is merely olive or grapeseed oil with 2,4-Dithiapentane, the main chemical compound within truffles that give them their characteristic aroma, added to create a synthetic truffle oil. When purchasing truffle oil, be sure to purchase only oil made with real truffles.
There are a million recipes that call for fresh truffles, truffle butter or truffle oil. After you cook with these ingredients a few times you’ll also learn to use them in your own cooking for a little something special.