Archive for the ‘Australia’Category

Getting ready for summer with ‘Le Picnic’ recipes

Le Picnic cover
Talk about timing! Le Picnic: Chic Food for On-The-Go crossed our desk just as the azaleas burst into bloom and the purple finches laid their first clutch of eggs in the blue spruce outside our desk window. This Australian book by food writer Suzy Ashford is published by Smith Street Books in Melbourne, but it’s distributed in North America by Rizzoli. Suzy had us with the cover shot of a roast chicken and Camembert baguette (see above). By the way, the two photos in this post are courtesy of Smith Street Books.

The book breaks down roughly into gorgeous sandwiches, baked tarts or flatbreads, salads you want to eat with your eyes, and drop-dead gorgeous desserts that seem a little delicate to transport to a distant picnic site. We usually fall back on a few sure-fire pasta or rice salads for picnics because they’re easy to tote. But Francophile Ashford’s recipes are more aspirational. They aim for gorgeous summer meals to wow your guests. They seem best suited for serving on the back patio or deck. Because they are so well-conceived, it’s worth the time to shop for all the ingredients and prepare the food. The beautiful sandwich on the cover, for example, serves four and calls for a whole French cheese, half a roasted chicken, and a beautiful crusty baguette.

The strikingly simple recipe for tarragon lemonade cordial is one of our favorites. It’s very spring-centric, since the first tender leaves of tarragon are always the best of the season. The publisher was kind enough to let us pass it on to you, provided that we kept the multiple measurements. The concentrated cordial can be diluted to make lemonade, but Ashford also suggests using it to spike iced tea. We’re waiting for the thermometer to hit 90°F for her best suggestion of all: Mix two parts gin to one part lemonade cordial. Pour over ice and add a cucumber stick as a stirrer.

Le Picnic: Chic Food for On-The-Go by Suzy Ashford, Smith Street Books, Melbourne, $19.95. Here’s the link to buy it on Amazon.com.

Le Picnic Tarragon Lemonade

TARRAGON LEMONADE


Makes 450 ml (15 fl oz) cordial

230 g (8 oz/1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
8 tarragon sprigs, leaves picked, plus extra to garnish
250 ml (8 fl oz/1 cup) lemon juice; you’ll need about 5 lemons
chilled soda water (club soda), to serve
lemon slices, to garnish

Combine the sugar and 125 ml (4 fl oz/ 1/2 cup) water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat, stir in the tarragon leaves and lemon juice, then leave to cool to room temperature.

Remove the tarragon leaves and pour the cordial into a sterilized bottle with a tightly fitting lid. Seal tightly and store in the fridge, where it will keep for up to 1 month.

To serve as a lemonade, simply combine 1 part cordial with 4 parts soda water. Garnish with extra tarragon sprigs and lemon slices.

18

04 2017

Chefs can win 10 weeks of free black truffles

shaving black truffles on pasta
Australian black truffle season has begun. Chefs who want to get a little inventive also have the chance to win an entire season’s supply next summer—a pound of premium black truffles per week during the roughly 10-week season.

I was dubious about the Aussie product until I went there, saw how they were grown, and spent a few weeks experimenting with them. We tend to think of truffles as a fall and winter product. They are. It’s just that fall and winter in Australia are flipped from fall and winter in the northern hemisphere. Thanks to speedy air shipment, it’s feasible to serve freshly shaved black truffles with sweet corn, tomatoes, and all those other great summer crops. Available June through August, they’re not just for steak or mushroom risotto anymore.

To read the article on black truffles that I wrote for the Robb Report, visit this link. If you’d like to see the recipes that Pat and I developed for black truffle tamales, corn ravioli, ultimate and decadent grilled cheese sandwiches, and more, please hit this link.

The black truffle sweet corn tamales were among the most inspired ways to make a truffle go a long way, but sometimes it’s just nice to shave one over buttered pasta (above).

Contest for chefs, pastry chefs, and bartenders


The Truffle and Wine Company is encouraging culinary creativity with Australian black truffles. They are running a contest for chefs, pastry chefs, and bartenders (black truffle Manhattan anyone?) to create new dishes. Contestants should make a truffle creation and photograph it with an Australian winter truffle in the picture. Post the image to social media with the hashtag #makeitrain. Before posting, you need to follow the Truffle and Wine Company at one or more of its social media accounts. They are https://www.facebook.com/truffleandwineusa,
https://instagram.com/trufflewinecous, and https://twitter.com/trufflewinecous.

All chefs, restaurants and bartenders are eligible to enter the social media competition. Chefs with the five highest scores based on social media hits will be visited by the company to try out the dish. The winner gets the ultimate prize of a season of free truffles. For more details, see the website of the Truffle and Wine Company at www.truffleandwineusa.com.

29

06 2016

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

Black truffle pizza tricks

truffle pizza
I got some of my best ideas about how to adapt truffles for home preparations from Doug Psaltis of RPM Steak (rpmsteak.com), RPM Italian (rpmitalian.com), and Paris Club (parisclubbistroandbar.com) in Chicago, who is the biggest user of Aussie truffles in the U.S. Psaltis credits his comfort level with truffles to the seven and a half years he spent working for Alain Ducasse (he opened Mix in New York).

chef Doug Psaltis loves black truffles “I learned the best thing about truffles—that they are really delicate and not overpowering,” he told me. “There are a lot of aromas to truffle dishes but what I really savor is the actual flavor of truffle. Handled right, it’s light and delicate. You can add lots of butter and lots of cheese to make a Parmesan pasta with black truffle and it’s great. But sometimes I just prefer some crushed truffle, a little bit of garlic and pine nuts and just a sprinkle of cheese tossed in great pasta. Then the truffle comes through.”

Psaltis’s advice to cut back on the fat gave me a new way of thinking about truffles, since most traditional truffle recipes pair the fungus with lots of butter, beef juices, or other fat. (I’ve even seen chefs in Italy’s Piedmont shave white truffle over a plate of lardo, which is pure raw pork fat.) One of Psaltis’s other favorite treatments surprised me.

“I love a great burrata with tomatoes and black truffles,” he said. “You get a little bit of the earthiness and the tang from the burrata and the acid of the tomato and a little bit of raw garlic in there with the truffles.”

I’m looking forward to trying both of Psaltis’s treatments this summer when the new harvest is available. And when a chef of such accomplishment spoke about the simple pleasures of tomato, mild cheese, and black truffle, it inspired me to bring some of those same flavors together to make a black truffle pizza.

Restraint is part of the secret of any good pizza, and for a black truffle pizza it was even more important. I use a pretty standard pizza dough that’s easy to make but requires several hours to rise. It’s been adapted from a pizza class adaptation of a Cook’s Illustrated adaptation of a New York baker’s no-knead dough that rises in the refrigerator. It’s best if it rises overnight in the fridge, but it works fine if you let it rise all day on the counter.

FOOD PROCESSOR PIZZA DOUGH


210 grams flour
1/4 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
150 grams ice water
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

In food processor fitted with steel blade, add flour, yeast, and sugar. Process 30 seconds to mix. With processor turned on, dribble ice water through feed tube until absorbed. Process another 30 seconds.

Let sit at least 10 minutes before proceeding. This allows the yeast to get a head start on the salt.

When the wait period is over, add salt and olive oil and process until the dough pulls away from the sides of bowl.

Turn out and place in greased 1-quart bowl to rise, preferably six hours or more. Punch down periodically when dough reaches rim.

This recipe requires some modest kneading on an oiled surface and then working by hand to stretch the dough into a 16-inch round. Cooked at 450°F, it produces a Neapolitan-style crust in about 10 minutes—crisp and browned on the bottom and slightly chewy on the top.

BLACK TRUFFLE PIZZA


truffle pizza 2The firm cheese is an aged goat cheese from the French Pyrenees that has a grassy/fruity flavor and melts very smoothly. It’s a bit of a splurge, but it’s worth it for the perfect pairing with the delicate truffle flavor. The truffles only go in the oven for the last few seconds that the pizza is being cooked, mostly to activate their aroma and let the cheese melt around them.

Crust (as above) rolled out on pizza pan
3 ounces tomme de chevre Aydius, coarsely grated
1 ounce fresh goat cheese
1 cup diced fresh tomato, well drained
10 grams grated or shaved black truffle
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, minced

Distribute cheeses evenly on crust and top with diced tomato, as shown above.

Cook until crust starts to brown on the bottom. Remove from oven and sprinkle pizza with black truffle. Return to oven to cook another 30-45 seconds. Remove from oven, sprinkle with basil, and cut into slices.

05

06 2015

Sweet corn tamales with black truffle

Australian truffle
During last July’s research trip to Australia, I babied a single prize black truffle all the way home. I kept it cool inside a rigid plastic box wrapped with absorbent paper that I changed every 12 hours so it wouldn’t get too moist. When asked at Border Control if I had any fresh food, I said, “yes, a black truffle.” The agent said, “OK,” and waved me through.

shaving a truffle The real question was what to make with this spectacular faceted lump (see above) that was an 80-gram culinary gem? How could I stretch it as far as possible without skimping on the flavor in each dish? After an indulgent meal of black truffle sliced over buttered pasta (see last post), I decided to set aside the truffle shaver in favor of a microplane grater that could produce gossamer ribbons of truffle. As I learned in Australia, maximizing the surface area pumps up the flavor.

Many top North American chefs rave about truffles with sweet fresh corn—one of our first tastes of summer at the market. But I had never seen truffles with sweet corn tamales. It seemed logical enough. After all, the Mexicans have been eating tamales filled with huitlacoche (an inky corn fungus) for centuries. As it turns out, truffle and corn tamales are a match made in culinary heaven.

This version is adapted from Mark Miller’s original “green corn tamales” that he used to serve at Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe. I’ve changed the dough a little and filled the tamales with soft goat cheese blended with black truffle. We serve them without a sauce, but with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche on the side.

Sweet corn tamales with truffle

SWEET CORN TAMALES WITH BLACK TRUFFLE


With apologies to Mark Miller and millions of Mexican chefs, I abandon the colorful corn husks or banana leaves for more practical aluminum foil to wrap the tamales for steaming.

For dough

3 large ears fresh corn, shucked
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup butter (one half stick) cut into pea-sized pieces
2 cups masa harina
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup warm water

Cut kernels from cobs and transfer to a large bowl. Blend 1-1/2 cups of the kernels, the sugar, and the butter until it forms a chunky purée. Return to bowl with remaining kernels and add masa harina, salt, baking powder, chopped parsley, and water. Mix by hand until a soft dough forms, adding a little extra water if the dough is crumbly.

For filling
190 grams soft goat cheese
10 grams of finely shaved truffle ribbons

Mix truffle ribbons into cheese.

Divide dough into eight equal pieces. Flatten each and put one-eighth of cheese in middle. Fold over from two sides to seal. Wrap in aluminum foil and seal tightly. Repeat until you have eight tamales.

Steam for 50 minutes. Unwrap and serve with crème fraiche or sour cream.

Peddling truffles with Simon Friend

Tagliatelle with truffles at Cafe DiStasio in Melbourne, Australia
When I researched the Robb Report story on Australian truffles, I had the pleasure of meeting Melbourne-based Simon Friend and his partner Bryan Burrell. They do business as Friend & Burrell (friendandburrell.com.au), but they might as well be called The Good Tastes Guys because they’re Australia’s go-to suppliers of gourmet mountain hams from Spain, Giaveri caviar, and big tins of Iranian saffron. The two former tennis professionals are also major distributors of black truffles from the Australian Truffle & Wine Company.

Simon Friend with trunk full of truffles As the Melbourne Truffle Festival was about to start last July, I joined Simon Friend on his sales and delivery rounds in Melbourne. The state of Victoria has its own truffle industry, but production is dwarfed by the Manjimup farm, a four-hour plane ride west. We stopped at the airport to pick up a shipment and headed straight to Queen Victoria Market. Two newspaper articles about black truffles had appeared that day. One of the gourmet produce dealers had called to say that Friend was right: He should have ordered more truffles a few days earlier. Could Friend bring some by?

Simon Friend selects truffles We puttered around the busy market until a parking space opened up and we could dash in with a box cooler, a gram scale, and an invoice book. When Simon opened one of the plastic boxes in the cooler, the vendor and I both let out involuntary grunts of appreciation as the aroma wafted out. Each truffle was rolled in a fresh paper towel to absorb any excess moisture, and as Simon unwrapped them, the produce man approved each with a nod. They were small truffles, perfect for selling to chefs more interested in taste than appearance. Friend selected seven that weighed out at 156 grams. He promised to return a few days later with a new batch of bigger truffles that Melbourne foodies would be requesting once the festival publicity hit.

We spent much of the morning popping in kitchen doors to schmooze with a few chefs and talk about their truffle dinner plans during the festival. Finally, we came in through the kitchen to have lunch at the bar at Café DiStasio (31 Fitzroy St, St. Kilda; + 61 (3) 9525 3999; distasio.com.au), one of Friend’s very good customers.

Simon eating tagliatelle with truffles at Cafe DiStasio in Melbourne “A couple of bowls of pasta,” Friend requested. “And here’s a truffle to shave over them,” he said, pulling an unpretty but highly aromatic small truffle from his pocket. The waiter suggested a glass of Barolo each, and we concurred. By the time the dish arrived, so had Mallory, one of the two owners, who insisted that we have a green salad as well. Then she topped up the glasses. The tagliatelle were perfect, just slightly toothy and sauced with an emulsion of cooking water and superb Australian butter. The truffle was sliced so thin that it was translucent.

“That’s the key,” said Friend. “You want to maximize the surface exposure to get the best aromatics.”

And it doesn’t hurt to smother the pasta with those paper-thin slices of gustatory heaven.

Here’s my version of the dish pictured at the top of the post:

TAGLIATELLE WITH BUTTER AND TRUFFLE

Makes 2 generous servings

2 cups all purpose flour (plus extra for kneading and rolling)
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons butter
20 grams thinly shaved black truffle

Mound flour on the counter and make a depression in the middle. Place salt and olive oil in depression. Break eggs into depression. Using fingers—or a long-tined fork and a bench knife—combine the ingredients until the eggs are fully incorporated. Knead briefly until dough takes on texture of an earlobe. Divide into six pieces and roll out to desired thickness with hand-cranked pasta maker. Cut into 1/4-inch noodles.

Cook noodles in boiling, salted water for about two minutes until al dente. Drain and toss with butter in bowl, adding a little pasta water to make sure noodles are moist and well-coated. Divide into two bowls and top with shaved truffle. Enjoy with a glass of Barolo. Or two.

21

05 2015

Australian black truffles upend the seasons

First page of Robb Report Australian truffles story
I did not realize how successful the Australians have been in cultivating black truffles until I had the pleasure of visiting Manjimup in Western Australia to see for myself. The Truffle & Wine Company‘s truffière in that little town two hours south of Perth is quite simply the most productive black truffle farm in the world. I was visiting on behalf of the Robb Report, where my article on the subject, “Move Over, Monsieur,” appears in the May issue. You can also read a copy here on the “Some Articles” page of HungryTravelers.

I’m happy to report that there’s now a reliable pipeline of supply from Manjimup to the U.S., and some of the country’s top chefs have discovered the joys of pairing fresh black truffle with fresh summer produce. (The more-familiar European black truffles arrive December to March, also known as “root vegetable season.” ) The supply line is mostly for chefs and fancy food distributors, since black truffles have a very brief shelf life, but individuals can also order at the web site, www.truffleandwineusa.com.

I brought one home to experiment, and later this month, as the Australian black truffle season gets into gear, we’ll be posting some summertime black truffle recipes.

06

05 2015