Posted tagged ‘truffles’

Bénie Soit La Truffe

January 18, 2015

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Today was the day of the 30th annual Truffle Festival in Uzès. It wasn’t perhaps as grand as in years past, when a huge scramble of 3000 eggs and 3 kilos of truffles was cooked over a fire and served to the eager participants. In fact that was really the best part of it all, and I’m not sure why they decided to stop doing it. I’d hate to think that it had anything to do with health department restrictions; after all, what could go wrong with 3000 raw eggs and a pan moved about by forklift?

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So, not being able to dive into a gigantic mess of truffled eggs, we went to church instead, where the Compagnie Bachique, normally devoted to promoting and enjoying the local wine, brought a heap of truffles to be blessed before they were sold.

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It’s a funny thing they do here, blessing the most worldly of things. I’ve seen piments d’Espelette blessed, wine grapes blessed, and before the Pastorale just before Christmas even the animals were taken to the Cathedral to be blessed.This wasn’t nearly as picturesque, in the event, and the mass was long and not much of it was about truffles. But I was struck by the emphasis on how much truffles contribute to the economic life of the region, and when the collection baskets were passed, there were a few truffles in them, along with the Euros.

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At the end of the mass the truffles went off to be auctioned for the benefit of cancer patients. I saw a truffle of 110 grams go for 410 Euros, which was quite a good deal for cancer patients, considering that the same truffle, sold on the truffle market that was taking place all around the auction, would have sold for about 100 Euros.

Eric and Jessica are off hoping to catch sight of a demonstration of pigs and dogs rooting for truffles, which is always fun, and then tonight we’ll go for truffle pizza, another traditional highlight of the day. Tomorrow they’ll head back to the US, and I’ll have a month here on my own before spending a few days in the Netherlands on my way back to the island. Time is flying, the sun is shining, it was a good year for truffles, and there’s been virtually no winter so far.

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Black Is Beautiful

January 23, 2009

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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.

A Bite Of Black Gold

January 18, 2009

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I guess they got asked so many times for the recipe that the nice ladies from the Uzès Office of Tourism  just wrote it on the tablecloth:

3 kg truffles
3000 eggs
20 litres oil
30 litres cream

And that’s all they wrote.  But that’s not the whole story, of course, because to pull it off you need a town square full of truffle lovers, truffle tasters, truffle buyers

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and truffle vendors.  Thanks to favorable weather conditions, truffles are relatively cheap this year, going today for 70 Euros for 100 grams, which works out to 700 Euros a kilo, or about $425 a pound.  Considering that last year they were selling for about 1000 Euros a kilo, that’s practically a bargain basement price.  Since the weather has been trufflish, we invested in a few, and later this week we’ll make some sort of truffle extravaganza dinner.  But for today, we let others do the cooking.

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You need a big crew of strong guys to scramble 3000 eggs,

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plus a fork lift to get the hot pan off the fire before the eggs get vulcanized,

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lots of serving dishes to feed the hungry masses,

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and a stalwart dish crew for the sad moment when it’s all over but the fire.  

But truffles aren’t brought by the stork, and to further our education we were also treated to a demonstration of truffle hunting.  These truffles are cultivated, of course, in a wildcrafted sort of way, but they still need to be found and dug up.

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Dogs in the audience were invited to come front and center and dig for truffles, although most of them sniffed happily without ever finding anything.

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A few dogs were more diligent and approached the ring in a workmanlike manner

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with an eye to taking care of business.

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After the dogs had their day, they brought in the big gun.  This rather enormous pig showed us who was the boss truffle turner-upper, as she went quickly and decisively from one buried treasure to another

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getting a treat from her person for every truffle she found, and never stealing the tiniest one for herself.  You can see her in action right here on YouTube, courtesy of Eric.  She was such a cutie pie, don’t you dare even think about pork roast with truffles!

After watching the dig, we weren’t ready to renounce truffle-snuffling, and went off in search of a truffle lunch for ourselves.

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All the restaurants in town had posted their truffle menus in the center of the square, and we chose Le Zanelli

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where, if “awesomest” were a word I’d use it to describe their truffle and arugula pizza,

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with the truffle tagliatelle in a cognac and cream sauce coming in a close second.  We left, licking our lips and stuffed to the gills

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and couldn’t help but notice that even the restaurant’s cat, who had been much in evidence under the tables, looked like truffle festival day might be the best day of the year.

And now we’ve got three truffles waiting in the kitchen, so if you have a favorite recipe to share, please do!