Grits with black truffle and poached eggs

grits with black truffle and poached egg
As Pat and I developed ways to use black truffles, we generally opted for the simplest and most straightforward combinations. Keeping in mind that truffles pair well with corn—and that northern Italians sometimes eat truffles on polenta—we decided to try truffles with some of the best grits we’ve been able to lay hands on. We’ll be writing shortly about our food and drink visit to central Kentucky, where we had the good fortune to drive from Lexington out to Midway to visit Weisenberger Mill. This is a truly old-fashioned mill that has been stone-grinding grain for six generations, starting in 1865. Living in Yankeeville, we have a hard time finding good white grits, but now know we can order them online from Weisenberger at www.weisenberger.com. Their grits are ground from locally grown non-GMO corn. They even put the name of the farm on the package. Ours came from the Rogers Farm in Hardin County, Kentucky.

For this truffle dish, we made the grits according to the directions on the package. It really doesn’t get any easier than that. The eggs that we poached had been stored in a sealed container with a truffle for about three days to pick up the truffle aroma. Along with being simple, it looks great on the table with sunflowers from the garden. Don’t forget to order your Australian black truffles from The Truffle and Wine Company’s USA office at truffleandwineusa.com/.

BLACK TRUFFLE GRITS

Grits

Serves 2

2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grits
salt and butter to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 eggs
10 grams black truffle

In a medium saucepan, bring water to boil and add salt. Stir water to create a swirling motion and pout in grits. Bring to boil while continuing to stir. Reduce heat and cover. Cook 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat 2 inches of water in a large, deep frying pan. (A cast iron chicken cooker is perfect.) Bring to boil, reduce heat, and cover until grits are done. When grits are ready, season to taste with additional salt and butter.

Add 1 teaspoon salt and vinegar to water in deep frying pan. Break each egg into a shallow bowl and lower into simmering water. Let cook about 3 minutes, or until whites are largely set and yolk is still runny.

Spoon grits into two serving bowls. Using a slotted spoon, lift each poached egg onto grits. Shave truffle over top and break the yolks to flow over grits.

30

07 2015

Even more decadent grilled cheese and truffle sandwich

ingredients for truffle grilled cheese sandwich
Some foodies love to play the “last supper” game: What would you want to eat for your last meal on earth? Pat and I are in accord on this one. It would probably be this elegantly simple grilled cheese sandwich with Comté, prosciutto, ripe tomato and truffle. Cooked just enough to brown the bread in butter (an omelet pan is perfect for the task), the Comté brings out all the high, resinous notes in the black truffle. You could die happy just biting into the sandwich, which gives you a strong whiff of truffle just before you actually taste it.

grilled cheese and truffle sandwich In the interest of research, we tried this sandwich in the purist form—just Comté and truffle—before adding the prosciutto and tomato. The basic sandwich shown here is very, very good. But it’s only good enough for a last lunch, not a last supper. We chose Comté, by the way, because it’s the standard cheese for making a great croque monsieur. Although we’ve never been able to lay hands on Patricia Wells’ book, Simply Truffles, we’ve read that she includes a recipe for a truffled croque monsieur. Any cheese that can stand up to béchamel sauce, we figure, can stand up to black truffles. The addition of prosciutto was also in homage to the croque monsieur. Using paper-thin prosciutto gives a lot of flavor without interfering with the toothiness of the truffle. Like the burger, we think this dish is the apotheosis of an American classic.

ULTIMATE GRILLED CHEESE WITH TRUFFLE


Makes 1 grilled cheese sandwich

2 slices excellent white sandwich bread
butter (lots of butter)
2 oz. aged Comté cheese, coarsely grated
1 slice prosciutto large enough to cover bread
1 ripe tomato, skin removed, cut into 1/4-inch slices
10 grams black truffle, thinly shaved

Butter both slices of bread. On one buttered side, place half the cheese, then a layer of prosciutto, the truffles, the tomato slices, and then the remaining cheese. Top with other slice of bread, butter side toward filling.

In an omelet pan, melt a knob of butter and swirl it around the pan to coat. Place sandwich carefully into pan and press gently with a spatula. Cover with a pot lid and let cook over medium heat for up to 90 seconds. Remove lid and flip sandwich over. Top should now be golden brown. Place lid back on and cook another 45-60 seconds until other side is browned and cheese is just melted. Remove from pan and cut on the diagonal. Eat while hot. Alternate bites with sips of cold Chablis.

Try not to die just yet. Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins.
grilled cheese truffle prosciutto and tomato sandwich

28

07 2015

Truffles, cheese, and honey for dessert

Manchego cheese with honey and truffle
One of our favorite breakfast dishes in Spain is a plate of sliced Manchego cheese drizzled with honey and served with a bit of membrillo (quince jelly). For dessert, the ewe’s milk tang and saltiness of Manchego pairs exceptionally well with black truffle.

MANCHEGO CHEESE, HONEY & BLACK TRUFFLES


Serves 2

6 oz. wedge of Manchego semi-curado (aged at least 6 months)
2 tablespoons of chestnut or acacia honey
10 grams black truffle
crackers for serving

Remove rind from Manchego. Lay wedge on its side and slice into 7-8 triangles of cheese. Arrange on a plate and drizzle with honey. (The easy way is to dip a butter knife in the honey and “paint” it on the cheese.) Shave black truffle over the top. Add crackers to the plate and serve with a glass of late-harvest muscat, Hungarian Tokaji, or Pedro Ximenez.

26

07 2015

Decadent hamburger with black truffles

truffle burger and truffle aioli poyayo salad
Several high-end restaurants (we’re talking about you, Daniel Boulud) serve a magnificent wintertime hamburger with foie gras and shaved French black truffle on top. We can’t top that. When we decided to take our Australian truffle bounty and see if we could build a summer burger, we were inspired by the great bacon burger we ate last year at Cured in San Antonio. (Here’s the recipe.)

We knew the truffle would respond well to a bit of fat and to acid, so we plumped up the ground beef with some fattier ground pork and added a thick slice of heirloom tomato on top. Not caring to heat up the house making brioche buns (and we’re not that good at baking bread), we purchased some great potato buns from Vermont Bread Company (www.vermontbread.com). One of the keys to maximum truffle flavor is to cook the burgers very rare. To double the decadence, serve with potato salad made with truffle aioli.

OUR ULTIMATE TRUFFLE BURGER


Makes 2 burgers

3/4 lb. freshly ground round (85% lean)
1/4 lb. freshly ground pork
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
10 grams finely grated black truffle
2 hamburger potato buns
2 thick slices ripe heirloom tomato
10 grams black truffle to shave

At least four hours before cooking, combine beef, pork, salt, pepper, and grated black truffle. Knead the mass to mix thoroughly. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to cook.

When hardwood charcoal is fully lit on one side of the grill, unwrap the meat mixture and form into two thick patties of equal weight. Place on grill on side away from fire and cover grill. Cook three minutes. Open grill and flip burgers. Cover again and cook 2 minutes. Check internal temperature with a thermometer probe. It should be 140°-145°F (60°-63°C). Remove from grill and quickly toast the buns over the hot coals—maybe 15 seconds.

Place a burger on each bun. Top with tomato slice. Shave black truffle over the top. Swoon as you eat. This burger calls for a decent negociant red Burgundy or a Brunello di Montalcino.

24

07 2015

Lemon risotto and Caprese salad with truffles

lemon risotto and caprese salad with truffle
What a luxury to shave truffles over some of our favorite summer dishes! I was surprised when several chefs suggested black truffles on a Caprese salad, but if the tomatoes have enough acidic zing, it’s a match made in heaven. Our own tomatoes aren’t quite ripe yet, so I have to resort to hoop house or hot house varieties. One trick to restore the “fresh tomato” flavor to these typically bland fruits is to give them a tiny sprinkle of salt, sugar, and citric acid. Citric acid is sometimes sold as “sour salt,” and is readily available in Indian grocery stores. (I mix up the seasoning in a ratio of 20 parts salt to 5 parts sugar and 1 part citric acid and store it it an airtight jar.)

But what to eat with Caprese? The natural choice for us is a lemon risotto, lightly adapted to the herbs we have on hand this time of year. It’s best with a very grassy flavored olive oil. Instead of mint and basil, you could substitute fresh lemon thyme and rosemary.

LEMON RISOTTO WITH BLACK TRUFFLES


Serves 2 as an entree, 4 as an appetizer

sprig of fresh mint
sprig of fresh basil
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/4 cups strong chicken broth
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
20 grams black truffle

Remove stems from herbs and combine the leaves with grated lemon zest. Chop very finely and set aside.

In 2-3 quart pressure cooker, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until translucent. Add rice and stir until well coated with oil. Raise heat to high and add white wine. Stir to keep from burning until wine is absorbed. Add chicken broth, stirring well. When pot begins to simmer, tighten lid and cook on medium pressure for exactly 8 minutes, turning down heat to keep pressure steady.

Remove from heat and run pot under cold water to decompress. Remove lid and place pot back on low heat. Stir in lemon juice and test rice for doneness. (It should be al dente in the middle but rather creamy.) When rice is desired texture, add grated cheese and reserved herbs and lemon peel.

Place in bowls and shave half the truffle over the top. Serve with a Caprese salad over which you have shaved the other half truffle.

22

07 2015

Stretching black truffles with alioli

chicken salad with black truffle alioil
The good and bad side of fresh truffles is that you have to eat them up right away because they only keep for a week or two in the refrigerator, even if you let them breathe every day when you change the absorbent paper in the container. In the process of eating them up, it’s easy to have a lot of truffle “crumbs” or extra shavings. The solution to that problem is truffle alioli, the Catalan answer to mayonnaise. We made a pretty big batch (nearly 2 cups) and used it to make potato salad (with sliced boiled potatoes, minced onion, chopped boiled egg, and minced celery) and to make a delicious chicken salad. The secret to great alioli is to store the eggs in a sealed container with a truffle for a few days.

BLACK TRUFFLE ALIOLI


4 large cloves garlic, peeled and grated
20 grams grated black truffle
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients except the oil in a food processor fitted with steel blade and process to mix. Add olive oil in a slow drizzle with processor running. The alioli will have the texture of thick mayonnaise. Add extra lemon juice or salt to taste. Store overnight, as garlic will mellow and truffle will permeate the alioli.

TRUFFLE ALIOLI CHICKEN SALAD


This is the dish pictured at the top of this post.

1 large chicken breast, roasted in wood oven (or on charcoal grill via indirect heat)
3 stalks celery
6-8 fresh figs
1 shallot, minced
3/4 cup alioli (see above)
black truffle shavings

Remove skin and cut chicken off bone. Dice into 1/2-inch pieces. Cut celery stalks into 1/2-inch wide strips, then cut very thin slices on the diagonal. Destem figs and dice. Combine chicken, celery, and figs with minced shallot and mix together. Add alioli. Serve on lettuce with fresh tomato, topped with a few shavings of black truffle.

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20

07 2015

Corn ravioli with Australian black truffles

Corn and truffle ravioli
I received a shipment of truffles from the Truffle and Wine Company (truffleandwineusa.com) early this month. The truffles are spectacular, but it’s not like I can tuck them away to use weeks from now. They have to be eaten quickly, which means developing a bunch of ways to use them with summer produce. For the last 10 days, Pat and I have been cooking with black truffles, repeating some favorite dishes and trying to create some new ones. We’ll be posting new recipes in quick succession in case you want to order some truffles yourself before the season ends next month.

When I was working on the Robb Report story, I spoke to a number of American chefs who exulted in using the Australian black truffles with summer dishes, but few were as passionate as Craig Strong of Studio at Montage Laguna Beach, who says that the combination of sweet corn and black truffle “just explodes in your mouth.” Then he told me about the corn agnolotti he served last summer….

I knew I couldn’t possibly replicate the dish that Strong had made at Studio, but it wasn’t too much of a stretch to follow his principles to create a home version. In this case, I stuffed the ravioli with a mix of lightly sauteed onion and fresh corn kernels, cooled and mixed with a soft but tangy goat cheese and shaved black truffle. The sauce, following Strong’s concept, was a corn foam, which is easier than it sounds. In the picture, it’s topped with a sprig of basil. For a good overview of making ravioli with a power mixer and a ravioli tray, see Julie Deily’s demo on YouTube. The rolling process is exactly the same with a hand-cranked pasta machine, which I prefer for the additional control.

CORN RAVIOLI WITH BLACK TRUFFLES AND CORN FOAM


For pasta

190 grams flour (about 1 1/3 cups)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 large eggs, room temperature

For filling and sauce

6 ears corn
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon butter
2/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
black truffle (20 grams)

Make pasta by placing flour in a mound on the counter, and making a well in the center. Add salt and olive oil to the well, then break eggs into the well. Using a fork, mix liquids into the flour, gathering up stray bits before they get away. Knead on counter until earlobe texture, divide into thirds, and roll through pasta machine until thin enough to drape over a ravioli form. Dust lightly with flour and reserve.

Cut kernels off the cobs. Reserve one cup and add the remainder to heavy duty frying pan with onion and butter. Cook on low heat until onion is translucent and corn is tender.

Place reserved kernels in saucepan with milk and bring to a simmer. Meantime, scrape the corn cobs to “milk” them and add this essence of corn to the simmering kernels. When corn is tender, remove to blender and puree. Dissolve the cornstarch in a little water and add to the puree. Blend briefly to mix thoroughly.

Grate truffle with microplane grater and add to corn and cheese mixture. Fill ravioli forms and drape another sheet over the top. Roll with rolling pin to release a dozen square ravioli. Repeat to make three dozen ravioli in all. (Save any leftover filling for an omelet.)

Bring large pot of water to boil. Add generous amount of salt and hold at vigorous simmer while preparing the corn foam.

To make foam, strain the corn-milk-cornstarch mixture to remove excess fiber and bring to a simmer in a small, deep saucepan, stirring constantly so it doesn’t stick. When the mixture has thickened, beat vigorously with an immersion blender, a whisk, or (my favorite) an old-fashioned egg beater. (The egg beater whips the most air into the mixture, creating a stable foam.)

Turn up the hot water to a vigorous boil and cook ravioli about three minutes after they float to the top.

Remove from water, drain quickly, and serve with hot corn foam.

17

07 2015

Craggy Range shows original NZ wines

Matt Stafford of Craggy Range
Matt Stafford (above) isn’t just any winemaker. He’s a winemaker who came to the trade originally as a soil scientist. The post-grad diploma in viticulture and oenology came later, but the grounding (no pun intended) in soil might just make him the ideal person to make wine for Craggy Range (www.craggyrange.com) in New Zealand. Stafford was in Boston a few weeks ago to introduce some of his wines. New Zealand has become notorious for popular sauvignon blanc and pinot noir–even though the former often tastes medicinal and the latter like cherry cough syrup. It was a pleasure to taste elegant New Zealand wines that spoke first and foremost of terroir.

It was clear that Stafford wanted to confound expectation when a few of us gathered at L’Espalier for dinner. Instead of pouring a sauvignon blanc as an aperitif, he poured the intense Kidnappers Vineyard chardonnay that drank like a Chablis. It’s grown in Hawke’s Bay on a shallow, clay loam soil aired out by cool sea breezes, a combination that intensifies the varietal flavors. At $22 a bottle, it’s a good alternative to its French counterpart.

By contrast, Craggy Range’s Gimlett Gravels vineyard, also in Hawke’s Bay, is a patch saved from being turned into a gravel mine. The combination of stony soil with terrific drainage and intense sun and heat makes the vineyard excellent for growing the very ripe components for Te Kahu, a soft Bordeaux blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and malbec. Also priced at $22, it was gentle enough to pair with quail breast served with walnut polenta.

Stafford contrasted Te Kahu nicely with Sophia, a different Bordeaux blend (it includes more petit verdot than malbec). Although the blend is closer to the right bank Bordeaux wines, the cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc are much more pronounced than in Te Kahu, giving Sophia more of a left bank flavor profile. Le Sol from Craggy Range All the grapes represent the best from Craggy Range’s vineyards and they’re all hand-selected and destemmed. At $76, Sophia has good aging potential. The 2013 we tasted is still a little closed and the tannins are tight, but there’s a lot of promise in the fruit.

The biggest red from Craggy Range is another Gimlett Gravels wine, Le Sol. Made from 100 percent syrah from heritage stock brought to New Zealand 150 years ago, it provides a powerful flagship for the winery. Rich, seemingly sweet from the high alcohol content, and full of fruit with licorice and green herbal overtones, Le Sol has the approachability of a good pinot noir, but the body and intensity to drink well with strong meat dishes. L’Espalier threw a veritable mixed grill at the wine—rack of lamb, spare ribs spiced with ras el hanout, garlic sausage, and some charred eggplant. The spare ribs and eggplant were the best match, but it was interesting to see how a New Zealand syrah could bridge the gap between the balanced style of the Rhone Valley and the more aggressive hot-weather style of Australia. Suggested retail is $107. It would be spectacular with a powerful game dish, though we’d suggest double-decanting.

12

07 2015

Mullan Road shows the grandeur of Walla Walla red

Dennis Cakebread having Mullan Road poured at Strip by Strega in Boston
Given that his family name is practically synonymous with Napa, it was a pretty good bet that when Dennis Cakebread started making wine near Walla Walla, Washington, he was going to call it something else. So he named his new winemaking venture for the historic wagon road across the Rockies from present-day Montana to present-day Walla Walla that was surveyed in 1854 and built 1859-60. We suspect that what appealed to Cakebread was that Lt. John Mullan was a pathfinder and a visionary. More than 150 years later, portions of I-15 and I-90 follow the same path that Mullan took over the Rockies. Cakebread is looking to pioneer a Washington red worth laying down in your cellar. His first Mullan Road Cellars red (2012) was released last fall.

As Cakebread looked into the Columbia River Valley for a possible expansion project, he was both impressed with the unusual soils and with the camaraderie of Walla Walla winemakers. Not that Cakebread has completely made up his mind exactly which terroir Mullan Road will attach itself to. “When you think you might move to a new city, you don’t just go out and buy a house,” he says. “You rent a while and see how you like the neighborhood.”

Mullan Road 2012Mullan Road Cellars purchases most of its grapes from other growers, most notably Seven Hills Vineyard on the south end of the Walla Walla Valley appellation and a number of vineyards in the area close to the Oregon border soon to be recognized as Royal Slope. Other parcels it leases on a three-year recurring lease program. Compared to many winemaking regions, eastern Washington is very dispersed, with miles of rough road between vineyards. “One thing you really need to make wine in Washington,” says Cakebread, “is a good truck.”

Leasing parcels also lets Mullan Road experiment. One year Mullan Road contained a small percentage of Malbec, but it wasn’t up to Cakebread’s standards or those of Washington native winemaker Aryn Morell. The next blend used cabernet franc to balance the merlot and cabernet sauvignon.

At this point, Mullan Road Cellars makes just one wine known as a Columbia Valley Red. It’s a Bordeaux blend carefully balanced to cellar well yet also drink fairly well while young. Cakebread calls it “balanced and robust,” and we have to agree. We enjoyed a bottle of the 2012 at Strip by Strega in Boston at a working lunch over a grilled pork dish and a steak. The wine held up well with both, showing a little cassis and dark berry fruits on the nose, supple tannins to grip the meat, and finished with a satisfying Bordeaux-style bittersweet note. We can barely wait for the 2013, due to hit the shelves in October.

Click here for more about Mullan Road Cellars.

06

07 2015

What to eat at the airport: Chicago O’Hare

Tortas Frontera at Terminal 3 in ORD
Maybe it’s the feel-good endorphins released when we eat chile peppers, or perhaps it’s just the simple combinations of strong flavors, but when we’re truly stuck at the airport, nothing soothes our frazzled nerves better than good Mexican food. When American canceled our flight from Dallas to Albuquerque, we had time to discover the healing power of the chicken and green chile tamales at Pappasito’s Cantina at DFW. (See this post for details.)

Yesterday, when American summarily canceled our flight from Chicago O’Hare to Lexington, Kentucky, we headed directly to Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless. We’ve been fans of his food for years, and find that the recipes in his cookbooks are among some of the best for reproducing authentic Mexican dishes at home. It’s nice to find a friendly face, so to speak, at the airport.

Tortas Frontera, as you might expect from the name, is basically a sandwich joint. But what sandwiches! We settled in at the food court with a spicy albondigas torta (a meatball sandwich), a smoked pork mollette (an open-faced sandwich), and a bowl of creamy corn and poblano chowder that was practically the definition of comfort food.

And we knew what we were getting, as Bayless lists the ingredients and often the local farms where he gets them. The food may be Mexican by culture, but it is, as his souvenir shirts say, “Hecho en Chicago.” The meatballs incorporated pork and bacon from Gunthorp Farm in nearby LaGrange, Indiana, and they were served with Bayless’s classic roasted tomato sauce and a little melted soft Cotija cheese. The mollette was a harmonious stack of sliced pork loin, melted Jack cheese, chipotle-fig spread, Cotija cheese and a little cilantro on half a bun. And that sublime chowder contained sweet corn, roasted green chiles, caramelized onion, and Cotija cheese. When we get home, we’re going to check his cookbooks for the recipes.

We can recommend them all, with the caveat that when American is canceling flights willy-nilly, the lines get long and the service a little slow. But we could wait. We weren’t going anywhere for 24 hours.

Branches of the restaurant are located in Terminal 1 at B11, Terminal 3 at K4, and Terminal 5 at M12.

23

06 2015