"You got what?"
"Le truffe. And you have to come and eat it... soon. This can't wait. It's fresh...NOW!"
I think I probably need to explain all the ensuing shouting and jumping up and down. A truffe is a truffle. Not the chocolate kind that we make at Christmas. Those were named after the real truffe....the Black Diamond...because they share a resemblance.
A truffle is, plain and simple, a mushroom. But after that, it's not plain and simple. Black truffles are a smell and taste sensation, 80% of which come from Provence. They grow completely underground and are not easy pickin's. There are three ways to get them.
1. Have a nice, fat wallet and buy one.
2. Have a pig or trained dog that can root them out in a public forest where they may or not be and where nobody will shoot you if you find one.
3. Be a grower of truffles. These people buy oak or chestnut trees specifically inoculated with the spores and spend a lot of time, energy and money hoping their crop will come to fruition. And they still need a special dog or a pig and a lot of luck.
My friend has a colleague with a dog trained specifically to find truffles. It's a hobby and he does his foraging on public land where there is no danger of being called a poacher. It's a sideline that from time to time, cashes in.
I say "cashes in" because not only are they a taste and smell sensation, they're expensive. I mean, REALLY expensive. More pricey than my ski pants. More costly than my car, in fact! The December wholesale price of a quality black truffle was running about 1200€ a kilo ($1573)! Any way you look at it, they're a rarity, a very expensive rarity that I was soon to have the opportunity to enjoy.
On the menu: simple food designed to let the truffe shine. No fancy stuff here...I wanted to taste it. But first, the truffle (ours was probable 200 grams or more...a great big one would wholesale at about 400€ and could double or triple for retail) was placed in a bowl with the whole eggs on top, sealed and put in the refrigerator for two days. Amazingly, the eggs take on the intense flavor of the truffle as they share space. Not only that, they actually took on a different color. The eggs on the left were the ones that spent a two day conjugal visit with their mushroom.
Then I mixed the slightly beaten eggs with a little creme fraiche and salt and pepper. I sliced the truffe in tiny, paper thin slices to mix into the eggs. When I dropped a couple slices on the floor, my friend was on his knees in a heartbeat, scrambling to pick them up and chastising me for my lack of care.. This is not something to be wasted. Then I cooked the eggs in a bain du marie, so they they slowly cooked without danger of burning.
In the meantime, we made a simple potato salad adding only olive oil, salt and pepper and sliced truffles. We used the whole thing up! All of it. I kept thinking this puppy could pay my air fare ticket to the United States but if I were to stuff it in my pocket and run like hell, I would never have this experience again....so....
I tried to eat slowly. I really tried. But it was just so good. I've read up on truffles and "experts" say they're best raw. I'm going to disagree. I found the flavor more intense in the cooked eggs than in the potato salad and if I ever get the opportunity to play gourmet gourmand again, the truffles will go in the potato salad while the spuds are still hot.
Truffle season is over for this year (I wrote this in February but forgot to post it!) and today I ate...big surprise...peanut butter. But I've had my affair with The Black Diamond. And we're in love.
Just a note to ask you to check out this site for a free Provence Rug giveaway. They're not Black Diamonds...but they are a slice of Provence you can afford. Especially if you get one free! http://www.thepixelboutique.com/2012/04/a-little-piece-of-france-a-provence-rugs-giveaway/