Little Black Diamonds

 For a foodie always on a mission to maximize her (and her companion’s) eating pleasure, Valentine’s Day presents a special challenge. The question is: how do you hit a new high and top last year’s memory?

Inspired by Peter Mayle and his book “A Year in Provence”, I got my hands on a couple of fresh black winter truffles. We decided to do our celebratory dinner early, as around Valentine’s, we will be dancing Argentine tango around the clock and noshing in Portland, Oregon.

The truth is, I had never cooked with fresh truffles before. Truffle salt, yes. Truffle oil, yes. But not with fresh truffles. I felt it was time to indulge in “the luxury of grands seigneurs and kept women”, as Brillat-Saverin described it back in the day. He is also the guy who nicknamed truffles “black diamonds”, as the prices are “très sérieux”: a 1oz truffle can set you back anywhere from $50 to $150, depending on its origin. Luckily, this is all you need to pull off a truffle menu for two (and a small pairing knife, which I found more handy than other slicers and mandolines). 

Besides, fresh truffles are only appropriate, as pigs are considered the most effective detectors of truffles (much better than dogs). You see, according to Peter Mayle, the pig is born with a fondness for the taste. The pig instinctively seeks out truffles; the only problem is that it is not content with just finding the truffle; it wants to eat it. My favorite quote from “A Year in Provence” is, “Anyone who has tried to reason with a pig on the brink of gastronomic ecstasy will tell you he is not easily distracted”. Sounds familiar? 🙂

And so, “rigid with porcine determination”, I cancelled all evening plans, and started working on a theme. I finally decided on “casual minimalist with a twist”.

Here is our Valentine’s truffle menu:

Truffle salad with frisee, haricots verts, tarragon, endives, fennel (with truffle sea salt, Meyer lemon juice, and white truffle oil)

 

 

 

Truffle sandwiches (well, actually, more like canapés) on sourdough with European style butter and truffle sea salt

 

 

 

Fresh WholeFoods-brand asparagus & fontina ravioli with truffles, truffle butter, and truffle sea salt

 

 

 

 

Seared scallops with truffles and truffle butter on a bed of celeriac root & potato puree (made with truffle butter, cream, and truffle sea salt) (pictured at the top)

 

And for dessert – you guessed it – fabulous sea salt caramel Christopher Elbow truffles purchased from Cocova (formerly known as Biagio Fine Chocolates).

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28 thoughts on “Little Black Diamonds

  1. Yes! No 10- or 20-step recipes, very few ingredients per dish, and simple preparation to showcase the truffles and keep the flavors subtle. I would also add that it is quite casual (before you add the truffles): simple green salad, buttered toast, mashed celeriac + potatoes, etc.

      • Ha, makes sense! Yesterday I had salmon spread (from IKEA) on whole grain bread and felt very accomplished. Now, I read about your truffles here and things are just not the same.

        So truffles are not too perishable since they can be shipped? Must make note to self…

        • No, they are certainly very perishable! What they do is Fedex the truffle to you in a cooler (it is kind of a matryoshka doll setup: the truffle is in a napkin which is placed in a paper sack which is placed in a plastic sleeve which is placed in a styrofoam cooler which is placed in a cardboard box together with an ice pack). It is all pretty elaborate.

          • Best way to preserve
            Truffles is to use an isi with the nitrous. Either put the truffles in the isi and give it to charges, open the nozzle a little to remove the air inside while using the first charge. Or fill the isi with two charges and pump the nitrous into a bag or a container with the truffles that seals well, blast the nitrous until it is empty then seal the container quickly.

  2. I want to come to your house for Valentine’s Day.
    The food sounds absolutely delicious.
    I love your writing also.
    I am a new follower and glad I found you.
    cooksploratrice (www.cooksploratrice.com)

  3. Reblogged this on cooksploratrice and commented:
    Does this not make you HUNGRY? What an awesome idea for valentine’s day.
    It’s so weird to read about a valentine’s day meal on the most unromantic of all days. Superbowl day is the day where men are raw men. They belch, they fart, they forget their table manners, they’re free to be guys. But next week, I will seriously entertain the concept of making this meal.

    • I swear, I could not have wished for a better tool than a paring knife. I have small hands! I have bought a mandoline, but using it on a small truffle terrifies me, quite frankly. It is pretty intricate work, as besides the slicing, you have to trim it a bit, and reserve every bit of those shavings for truffle butter.

  4. Yum, I’m impressed! I quite like truffles but have only had the pleasure of tasting them when in Italy last year and my husband was not as fond of them so I shall just have to plan another trip to Italy 😉

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