Monday, December 28, 2009

The Truffle Food Night, part 3

Just when you thought you had opened every Christmas gift under the tree, Food Night went and hid one more in the back corner of the closet next to the Scrabble board you never use. Now, before you get too excited, our gift to you is more of the intangible variety. You can't really put this gift in your fanny pack to take over to Aunt Mable's New Year's Day pot luck. You can however use it as inspiration to make some fresh pasta for yourself, or to at least take a step in that direction by investing in that pasta roller attachment for the Kitchen Aid you've had your eye on. Worst case, you can use it to kill 10 minutes of your life that you'll never get back. So rip off the bow, tear open the paper, and enjoy Food Night's gift to you...

Fresh Pasta
reduced stock, tarragon, parmigiano-reggiano, black truffle

Looks fairly deece*, eh? Midday on Saturday, I made the dough for the pasta. Semolina flour, couple eggs, salt, olive oil, stir, knead, bang - pasta dough. So simple. I think making fresh pasta deserves it's own post, so I won't belabor the details here. Recently I've been trying to keep the fresh pastas relatively simple around here. Six ingredients - pasta, stock, butter, parmigiano, fresh herb, salt. But at Food Night, we gave those six a + 1. The Truffle.

* Deece. An abbreviated form of "decent", that though the magic of irony, means "yummy, fantastic, delish, and all-around super-duper" here at Food Night. But you, the dedicated and loyal reader, already knew that from post numero uno.

Let me first say the truffle was WAY harder to slice than I thought it would be. It wasn't as firm as a titleist, but it was close. I definitely used a little extra caution while passing it over the mandoline since it took more force than I thought to slice it. The texture of the exterior was absolutely incredible; all kinds of knobs, nooks, crannies, patterns, randomness, roughness, curves - it looked "important". Does that make sense? You could just tell this thing was something. If you are like me, you contemplate things like "Who was the first person to eat X, and why did he or she think eating X would be a good idea?", where "X" is something like sea urchin or tripe. I thought of the truffle along those lines before this one arrived on my doorstep, since it's basically a dirty hunk of fungus buried underground on the root of some tree. But once you see it, it is quite impressive. It has presence. You can tell it is... kind of a big deal.

Once it was sliced... wow. The aroma; the intricate, delicate, yet assertive aroma. Not to mention the texture, and the amazing color and pattern of the truffle's interior. Prior to slicing, the smell was somewhat muted, but that scent of what I thought a truffle would smell like was definitely there. And when I think of how a truffle should smell, lacking experience in handling actual truffles I unfortunately think of the often extremely pungent and slightly manufactured smelling truffle oil. A little dab will do ya there. But once sliced, the truffle released organic smells of fresh, wet potting soil and other delightfully earthy scents. And I mean that it the best possible way. Really, I do.

And so, the Six + 1 ingredient pasta came together quite easily. The dough - done ahead of time. The water - on to boil. The stock - reducing nicely in a nice wide skillet. The herb (tarragon) - diced and ready. All that was left was to roll out the pasta through the brilliant and utterly genius Kitchen Aid pasta rolling attachment. From there, the noodles were cut, a knob of butter tossed into the reduced stock, pasta plunged into the water for 3ish minutes, then into the sauce with the herb and parmigiano. Toss to coat, divide amongst the five plates, and top with more parmigiano.

Then, it was of course time to shave the truffle over each dish. Steaming hot pasta, topped with shards of black truffle, and a glass of profound wine. Thankfully, nobody lost consciousness. The dish was clearly a success. However, it was unanimous amongst all the Food Night attendees that... we needed another truffle. One just wasn't enough to properly truffle* five pasta portions. We definitely got the essence of it, but because of the relatively modest amount of truffle each person received, the dish was not as "decadent" as I had hoped. The truffle shavings tasted a lot like they smelled - very much like wet earth. Now, before you say "Well why didn't you just go dig up your backyard and toss a hunk of that in with your pasta", I'll tell you that 1). I currently have about two feet of snow in my backyard thank you very much, and 2). this was the coolest earth smell and taste ever. It was exactly what I've always wanted truffle oil to be; a flavor enhancer, but not a palate dominator. I think a few more shavings on each plate would have pushed the dish to another level.

* Yep, I just used "truffle" as a verb. Cool, huh.

Conversely, perhaps we should take a page from Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David. They brought "Seinfeld" to an end while the show was still at the height of its powers because they wanted to go out on their own terms, instead of being shown the door. They wanted to leave the audience wanting more.

The truffle definitely did that - it left all of us wanting more. And that is probably just the way it should be.


  1. Am enjoying your blog so much, Erik!
    Especially the well of passion you have for it all! Thanks for sharing, T.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Terry! Glad you are enjoying, it's been really fun thus far. I think a Food Night "Maine" Event would be positvely spectacular. Lobstah, scahlops, and chowdah!