The Truffle Enigma, Part Two, The Feasting
I posted a couple of weeks ago about my trip to Portland, and the fab local truffles that I tasted at an in-depth truffle class with Jack Czernecki.
Well, the story didn’t end there. I had lamented the fact that I had found a new truffle to love, but alas, Portland may as well be Italy, when it comes to buying its truffles. In a tremendous act of generosity, Mr Czernecki reached out to relieve my distress. Within days, a package arrived at my doorstep, packed with four precious white truffles and a bottle of Oregon white truffle oil.
You’ve gotta love this job.
So, I began the process of ripening the truffles, and infusing a couple of wedges of gouda with their scent. Jack had advised me to keep them in a paper towel, and to change the paper as it became damp.
In honor of the truffles, the beginning of summer, and the completion of a huge recipe development project, I decided to invite the recipe testers who had pitched in to help over for a party. Then I began to ponder, what to serve with the truffles?
While I have catered many a party with passed appetizers and plated multi-course meals, when I entertain, I like to be able to enjoy myself. So, stirring risotto and forming gnocchi were out- I needed something easy that would hold in the chafer. I settled on mac and cheese. The richest mac and cheese I could make, with mild but tasty cheese that would form the perfect rich, warm base to release the scent of thinly shaved truffles.
The morning of the party, I went to my farmers market and picked up the best seasonal, local foods around. Organic asparagus and spinach just plucked from the soil, Italian and Shiitake Mushrooms from Birch River Farm, Mary Falk’s handmade cheeses, Whole wheat baguette and walnut whole wheat sour bread from the New French Bakery, and for the pescetarians, some natural, pond-raised smoked trout.From my garden, rhubarb, sorrel, parsley, mint and thyme.
With food like that, you really just stand back and let it speak. That and serve champagne.
It was fun to use my Italian truffle shaver and share the story of the truffle with my guests. We all had a great time, but I don’t know if the reputed aphrodisiac effect of truffles affected any of them. The Oregon whites are very similar to Italian whites, but not as intense. It takes a little bit more to get the full face-ful of truffle smell, and it is an experience I recommend highly!
For more on the food and the party, check out the excellent blog of party-goer Crystal Grobe.
Here is the basic recipe for the truffle mac and cheese.
4 Tbs Butter
2 bay leaves
1 cup caramelized onions ( I did them ahead and kept them in the freezer)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup unbleached flour
1 quart half and half
1 cup cream
1 pound goat gouda, shredded
1 pound fontina, shredded
salt, pepper, and generous pinch cayenne
2 pounds curly cavatappi
2 fresh white truffles, real white truffle oil
1. Put on a big pot of water for the pasta. In a 6 quart pot, melt the butter and add the caramelized onions. Saute over medium heat until warm and almost dry. Sprinkle over the flour, stirring and scraping. Cook for about five minutes, lowering the heat to keep it from sticking. Take off the heat and gradually add half and half, using your spatula to work it in a little at a time. Switch to a whisk as you add. Whisk in the cream. Over medium heat, bring to a bare simmer, whisking. Don’t boil. Let it bubble a bit, it should thicken a little. Take off the heat and whisk in the cheeses. Season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne. Hold in a warm spot.
2. Cook the pasta, drain well, and mix with the sauce. This made almost two half-pans for a chafer. To serve later, chill, covered, then bake covered just to warm. To serve, drizzle truffle oil over the dish, then thinly shave truffles over each serving.