Black Is Beautiful

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Truffles for two, please.  Oh, and a side of foie gras, if you will. 

For Eric’s last dinner with us before he heads back to the States, we decided to throw both caution and our investment in the truffle economy where they would do the most good: namely, directly onto our plates.  We had two truffles, each about 20 grams, which is just the right amount for two people.  Luckily for us, Shel doesn’t really like truffles, so Eric and I were in business.

Last year at truffle time I tried to use little bits of my truffles here and there, to spread them out as much as possible.  That was a big mistake, since nothing I made with them was really wow.  This year I followed two important principles: 1) you need 5 grams of truffle per person in a dish to really appreciate the Truffle Nature, and 2) if 5 grams per person is good, 10 grams is much better.  And you know, 15 grams might have been even more exquisite, but even though truffles are much cheaper this year, they’re still a luxury and a pair of 20 gram truffles was what we had.

Eric asked for a truffle risotto as a starter, and I followed this recipe almost exactly, except that I microplaned my truffle into the cream before infusing it.  It’s a gorgeous recipe, and even though it looks like way too much broth for the amount of rice, and doesn’t use any wine, it turns out to be one of the best risotto dishes I’ve ever tasted. 

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We decided on truffle burgers as a main course, so I grated half a truffle into the ground beef and let it mellow all together for a couple of hours.

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I put some nice truffle slices into a bit of olive oil, and chopped the rest into a heap of foie gras, with the result that we sat down to

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burgers of truffled beef, with truffle slices in the middle of the patty, and a melt of truffled foie gras on top.  After the risotto, eating it on a salad seemed like the thing to do, so I dressed the greens with just the meat juices from the pan deglazed with a bit of red wine, and we were purring.

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I’d wanted to make a truffle dessert too, but I chickened out and made this wonderful pudding with leftover viennoiseries, croissants, pain d’amande, and even a bit of baguette, with some little chunks of Bernachon extra-bitter chocolate standing in for the truffles.

A lovely bottle of Domaine de St. Georges 2001 Côtes du Rhône, candlelight, truffles and foie gras, a light rain falling outside,

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and a cute French girl to sleep with, and now bonne route Eric, safe trip home, and I hope that large can of duck confit isn’t making your luggage too heavy.

Abra’s Viennoiserie Pudding

12-14 oz assorted croissants, pain d’amande, baguette, or whatever pastries and bits of bread you’d like to use up
3 eggs
1 cup cream
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup cassonade or raw sugar, plus a little for topping
1 tsp vanilla
1 small handful of the best and darkest chocolate you can find, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°  Cut the pastries into bite-sized pieces and place them in a baking dish.  Put the eggs, cream, milk, sugar and vanilla in the blender and whizz to a froth.  Pour this over the pastry bits, toss in the chocolate, and press with a spoon for a couple of minutes to be sure the bread is submerged.  Sprinkle the top of the pudding with an extra spoonful or two of sugar.

Place the pudding dish in a bain marie of hot water and put it all in the oven.  Bake for about an hour, until top is golden but the center of the pudding is still a bit jiggly.  Serve warm or at room temperature with a little splash of cream.

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10 Comments on “Black Is Beautiful”


  1. oh woah! I’ve never had that much truffle at one sitting. And I have never cooked with truffle either, I’ve always eaten them in restaurants. This meals looks incredibly simple, sophisticated and friendly all at the same time!

    Sylvie

  2. Eden Says:

    I’m swooning at the mere thought of that meal. You know how I feel about Foie already, and all that fab truffle too – wow!

    I notice that Minou has grown a good deal – she no longer has her “baby face” and is turning into a lovely young lady.

  3. Rona Y Says:

    Oh my little Zazou is growing up! She looks like such a princess in that picture compared to her little impishness in her very solo first blog picture. (I hope you don’t mind my calling her mine. I have a bad habit of vicariously adopting other people’s pets which I’ve fallen in love with. Beppo is mine, too, by the way!)

    That burger looks amazing, by the way. I wonder I can find a nice piece of foie and a tiny bit of truffle somewhere in Japan. . .

  4. Tami Says:

    Ahh, that does indeed look beautiful. I tried to close my eyes and imagine the truffle aroma.

    Zazou is growing up. I knew a few kitties who looked a lot like her once.

    Love your blog and photos and still enjoy the legacy of recipes you left at PCN. Accidental Lentil Soup is one of my favorites.

  5. Jim Bradford Says:

    Abra, thanks for your showing me France as only a resident can. Shel came to my wedding reception and helped decorate, tin cans and all, my tandem bicycle my ex-wife and myself took on our 3 month European cycling honeymoon. We rode up from Marseille up through Avignon and up the Rhone to Vienne and then across to Roanne. This most beautiful part of France was difficult for us as we were a little fatigued from crossing northern Italy and found finding food and lodging a little more difficult as it was so sparsely populated it seemed in 1979. Being foodies we remember fondly the olives at the market in Avignon. Bless you for letting us vicariously live the life we dreamed about while riding along that beautiful countryside you live and cook in. Reliving those moments through your beautiful words and photos is such a joy. Shel, Fred at Bicycle South was quite jealous when I showed him this blog ,he said you were living a coffee table book life. Good for you both, because you are living a life we would all covet and the tribulations you have you share with the world so the sense of connectedness is unmatched in my experience with a diarist. I’m thinking about you Shel, in my bicycle club the sage advice you had about camaraderie and not leaving riders behind on club rides has been one of my cycling tenets all these years and I still practice those ideals you espoused in the ’70s.

  6. Shel Says:

    Jim-

    What a nice surprise!

    I don’t know if ours is a “coffee table book life,” but we’re having fun.

    Thanks for the nice words on my cycling philosophy, too.

    I’ll drop you an e-mail so we can catch up.

    -Shel

  7. Debra Lane Says:

    Oh this KILLS me. absolutely so much so that I had to make myself scrambled eggs with truffle oil and truffle salt. No comparison.

  8. Judi Johnson Says:

    Abra – Your blog is wonderful! It’s as though we are experiencing life in France along with you. Reading about Eric and truffles reminds me of how you despaired, when he first came to visit you all in Monterrey that he’d ever eat anything other than McDonalds, but you were determined and you won him over.

    It’s great to see that you and Heinz have kept up as well. His name came up, just yesterday on the COOKS staff section as all mentioned that we missed his wonderful messages about his fantastic dinners and his charm. We miss you as well. I’m glad I found you again.

  9. Calou Says:

    Hey !! I’m happy you enjoyed the risotto !! 🙂 But why the hell was it pink ?

    And if you wanna try another truffle burger, you can try my pigeon burger with truffles :
    http://cesstra.free.fr/blog/index.php?2008/01/29/33-indecent-burger-de-pigeon-a-la-truffe

  10. Abra Bennett Says:

    Thanks so much for the many kind comments.

    Judi – so nice to see you again! I love the Internet, the way it helps us all stay in touch even over the eyars and kilometers.

    Calou – ah no, the pink is the ground beef. En fait, je n’ai pas mis des photos du risotto puisque les votres étaient déjà formidables. The pigeon burger me semble trop bon!


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