To say that truffles are an acquired taste for me would be an understatement; I can't ever think of a moment when these heady gems crossed our family table growing up. Truffles and Tex Mex don't normally hang out together, you know. It wasn't until I became an adult that I had my first taste of the powerful fungus, and if you'll allow me to be dramatic for just one second, it literally knocked me off my feet.
Much has been said about the beauty and rarity of truffles, so I'll go ahead and leave the praise and culinary history to the professionals. By now you probably already know they are fungi and that they are harvested by dogs and pigs in Italy, France and the Pacific Northwest of the United States. You probably already know that they can fill a room with their aroma, but did you know that I know a Fed Ex driver who curses and swears each time he makes a white truffle delivery? Hey, I could think of worse smells for the inside of a delivery truck, can't you?
I eased myself into the flavor of truffles by going slow and easy. Any time I'd see it listed on a menu as an ingredient I'd order it, and over time I stocked my pantry with artisan truffle oils, both black and white, as well as truffle salt. But the real blessing (or challenge or curse, however you feel about them) came when I was given a few whole white and black truffles to photograph and play around with.
My little gems arrived in small containers packed in arborio rice, a very standard transportation method. I knew that they were fresh and wouldn't last long, but I honestly hadn't anticipated the strong smell they'd impart on just about everything in my kitchen. Everyday my partner would ask "when for the love of God are you going to use these evil things and get them out of the damn house???" If he felt that strongly about them then I can only imagine what a truffle farmer must deal with, but that's an image I have day dreamed about many times over. You see, I've grown to love that distinctive smell and the unique taste, and I just can't get enough.
The next few days were spent experimenting. Because I actually had fresh truffles in my grubby little hands I took the advice of a chef friend and cooked them as little as possible, adding them shaved with fluffy scrambled eggs, on top of fresh angel hair pasta, and added last minute to creamy mushroom soup. Perhaps my favorite way of using them was in risotto; starchy Italian arborio rice is a natural with truffles and even seemed to satisfy the palate of my non-truffle-lovin' boyfriend.
Sadly, my truffle experience was shorted lived. My boyfriend's patience ended and the truffles had to find new homes, but little does he know I have one well bundled and tucked away safely in the back of the freezer. We'll see if he ever notices.Risotto Cacio Di Bosco Al TartufoOk, get ready for a double punch of truffle goodness here. This recipe features Cacio Di Bosco Al Tartufo, an Italian cheese made from sheep's and cow's milk. It's studded with tiny specks of truffles and is pure heaven. If your local market carries it then you should by it. Seriously. Serve this risotto with a few slices of fresh truffle on top and you'll push it over the edge. Heaven, if you ask me!Ingredients
1 small yellow onion
1/2 stick unsalted butter
5 cups chicken broth
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup grated Cacio Di Bosco Method
Peel and finely chop the onion. Melt the butter in a large 4-to-5 quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring regularly. Add the onions and cook until translucent, stirring often.
Meanwhile, heat the stock in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Adjust the heat as needed to keep it simmering gently.
Once the onions are cooked, brown the rice by adding it to the onions for about 3 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. Once browned, add the simmering stock to the rice and onions, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly. Keep stirring until the rice absorbs the liquid (it will go from soupy to dry). Continue to add the liquid to the rice in batches, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom of your pan so that no rice sticks to the pan.
Taste the rice with a fork to test doneness, about 20 minutes. The risotto should be soft but not mushy. If it’s crunchy, continue cooking and adding liquid. If you find yourself out of liquid, don’t worry; heat up another cup of stock or use hot water if necessary. Once cooked, add the cheese and stir well to melt and incorporate it into the rice. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6 people.