Posted by: acooksca | 01/19/2012

Truffle Risotto

Truffle slices on Risotto

I did a little homework before shelling out $54 for a walnut sized knob of what looks like compressed black sawdust. “Italian and French are coveted and most fragrant in winter. Buy them as soon as they get off the plane. Select for the best aroma. Be sure of your source as tasteless ones from China, doctored with lab generated compounds, are on the market”.

Standing before baskets of gorgeous black Italian truffles I was pretty sure these were the real deal. After hours of tasting and talking truffles at Napa’s Truffle Festival we lean in to inhale the aroma of the day’s star ingredient. Todd Spanier, aka Re Dei Funghi (King of Mushrooms) sniffs, weighs, declares the price and slips my truffle into a small paper bag. “How are you going to use it? Try this recipe… it is wonderful!” He enthusiastically shoves a paper into my hand titled King of Mushrooms Black and White Truffle Cheese Fondue.

On the way home I keep sniffing the bag. Not really mushroom-like or forest floor, the aroma is more sweet onion and baked garlic, black olives, caramel and vanilla. In fact, it is really the aromatics, rather than the taste or texture that is the draw of a truffle. It is a sexy smell. Scientists claim it is close to the pheromones given of by certain animals, such as pigs. This is why pigs are sometimes employed to locate the well hidden fungi.

A few other things I found out before cooking with my treasure: truffle stands out well against bland foods such as pasta, rice or potatoes. Cut open a truffle and it begins to loose its unique aromatics, but by pureeing truffle in a processer with mild oil you catch the aroma/flavor. Black winter truffles should be grated (using a micro plane or fine cheese grater) or sliced very thinly (using a mandolin or truffle slicer) directly onto warm food to release aroma/flavor at the moment of serving.

Serves 2

1 small fresh black truffle
1 1/2 c. raw Arborio rice
1-2 tablespoons neutral oil such as grape seed or canola

Cut your truffle into halves and bury half in the Arborio rice so the aroma is absorbed as you make the puree. In a processer, puree the other half truffle with the oil. This can be done several hours ahead. Cover both well with plastic wrap.

2 tablespoon butter
3 large shallots, peeled and sliced as thinly as you can
8 brown mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 cups chicken stock
Salt and white pepper to taste

Heat a medium sized pot over medium heat. Add the butter, shallots and mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in another pot or microwave. Wrap the truffle half, set aside and add the risotto to the mushrooms. Stir well to coat the grains. Add a ladle of hot chicken stock and stir. Every few minutes stir the risotto adding another ladle of hot stock as the last is absorbed. Keep doing this until the rice exudes a starchy creaminess and is just tender. Heat 2 bowls. Taste the risotto and correct for salt and pepper. Stir the truffle oil into the risotto and split between the bowls. At the table grate or slice some of the remaining truffle onto each risotto.

Truffle that is not used can be chopped finely and combined with butter. Truffle butter is excellent on popcorn or mashed potatoes. Cover well and refrigerate up to a week.

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