Cooking at home with black truffles

Plutarch believed that they were born out of thunder hitting the earth.  Cicero considered them to be the children of the earth, and Porphyrus called them the gods of the earth.  Pliny the Elder called them ‘callosities of earth and a miracle of nature’ and Brillat-Savarin called them the ‘diamond of the kitchen’.  Rossini called it ‘the Mozart of mushrooms’.  We know them as expensive fungi.  The black truffle…

What do you do when the most perfect specimen of black truffle finds its way into your kitchen?

Well, first you place it up high on a cipollini onion pedestal and admire its holiness from all angles.  Then you sniff sniff sniff and take in all of its earthy and heavenly aroma like a junkie.  Then you morph into a shameless paparazzi and take lots of photos to commemorate this momentous event.

Then, like any reasonable and civilized human being, you wipe your drool and begin cooking.  Not too long ago my good friend Haru Kishi, head chef at the Gordon Ramsay at the London in West Hollywood, came over with a humongous white truffle.  We recklessly shaved generous portions of pungent white truffle over perfectly cooked risotto and a salad with spinach, asparagus, bacon and poached egg.  This time he came over with a black truffle to complete our yin and yang truffle journey.

I love dining out but I would choose cooking and eating at home any day, especially if it involves food items like truffles at the hands of a knowledgeable chef.  It’s mesmerizing to watch a chef at work, cutting, dicing, fileting and flambéeing with precision and grace.  I suppose it’s the same when people watch me perform surgery at work, but New Zealand lamb chops and fingerling potatoes are sexier than Staphylococcus infected pilonidal cysts and exsanguinating full-thickness head lacerations.

We decided to keep the menu simple and prepared a classic dish of scrambled eggs with shaved black truffles.  This was when Chef Kishi’s years of experience and creativity kicked in at full force.  Eggs were gently and patiently scrambled over low-medium heat until they just barely started to set.

As if the fresh black truffles weren’t enough extravagance, we busted out my precious tub of Urbani white truffle butter that I bought at Epicure Imports, a fantastic gourmet warehouse run by friendly proprietors and good friends Bill and Daniel.  We also passed the whites of soft boiled eggs through a sieve to throw into the egg mixture, to add more soft texture to the dish.

The result?  The softest, fluffiest, richest and smoothest batch of scrambled eggs that I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming.  I never knew that eggs could have such a pillowy texture.  My tail was starting to wag as we continued to prepare the other components of our dinner.

Chopped applewood smoked bacon was quietly sizzling and popping away on one corner of the stove top, while shaved and diagonally chopped asparagus simmered in hot water on the other.

Meanwhile, cipollini onions were roasting away in the oven into caramelized and sweet treasures.

A beautifully marbled piece of rib-eye steak went into the frying pan, instantly releasing a flood of melted liquid fat that started to brown the edges of the meat.  Like my previous white truffle cook-out when the bacon went into the pan, my 2 cats pranced into the kitchen at this time to see what was going on.  Luckily the sizzling sounds of meat on metal drowned out the desperate meowing that ensued.

Prepping and cooking seemed like an eternity to me, as the intense aromas from the oven and the stovetop were practically torturing me into an impatient state of extreme hunger and lust.  I was jumping around Haru like a child with ADD, checking in every other second to see if the food was ready.  All the while he stood patiently at the stove, completely ignoring me in his state of deep concentration as he tended to the precious cut of steak like the master that he is.

Finally it was time for plating.  Asparagus and bacon went first.

Followed by a generous heap of scrambled egg perfection, more asparagus and more bacon.

Meanwhile, juicy cuts of medium-rare rib-eye steak were plated along with tender and candy sweet cipollini onions, topped of course with a generous slab of white truffle butter.

Then came the crowning moment when precious black snow gently descended upon our plates.

With every rapid slice of black truffle against the sharp blade of the truffle slicer, a waft of earthy aroma was released into the air, spreading with it a thousand bubbles of happiness and joy.  You just can’t get this degree of extravagance and luxury at a restaurant, unless you’re willing to pay hundreds of dollars.

The final result?  A decadent and delicious meal.  I loved the texture of the smooth slivers of truffle against my tongue, and how it broke down easily under my bite to release even more aroma that rose up into my nasal passages.  I loved looking at the fine reticulated and lacy patterns on the truffle that looked like a complex labyrinth.  I loved the way that the crunchiness of the asparagus contrasted the silkiness of the eggs, and how the bacon added a perfect touch of saltiness to complete the dish.  The steak was bursting with warm juice that ran like a river into the valley of melted truffle butter on the plate.  Just for the hell of it we even shaved truffles over our salad.  Why not?  This type of experience only comes around once in a lifetime, so we might as well take it all the way to the max and enjoy the moment to its fullest.

With beautiful music in the background and a beautiful bottle of red wine in tow, this was a meal that will never be forgotten.  It was an epic experience that will be hard to beat.  Even if I have good scrambled eggs with black truffles at a nice restaurant in the future, I doubt that it will ever surpass this dish that we made.  Did I post enough photos of this experience to make you envious?  I guess I went a little overboard with the photos, but it’s like a parent taking photos of his or her newborn baby.  You can’t snap enough photos of the precious love in your life.  Except in my case, I ate my yummy baby.

Random trivia:  After 5 years of research, a French-Italian team of scientists finally succeeded in mapping out the entire genome and DNA fingerprint of the black Périgord truffle.  Now, was that really necessary?  See the Nature article from March 2010 below if you’re at all interested:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v464/n7291/full/nature08867.html