The Trouble with Truffles
I was having a great day. The to-do list was going as planned, the filing system in my brain was trending to fairly tidy, and my caffeine to motivation ratio was spot on.
Out of the blue, I got a truffle. No, not a chocolate truffle, but one of the fungus snorted up out of the ground somewhere in Italy black truffles. I don’t even want to discuss how this truffle fell into my lap. It just did. There were no illegal activities or shenanigans involved, but this was one of those all the planets in the right place moments that I did not dare question… it just happened.
And my day went right to hell.
BT (Before Truffle) time was flying, chores were getting crossed off the list, I was in the zone, and KAPOW! All of a sudden, every cell in my body was focused on The Truffle. The smell, oh dear, the smell and just holding it was making me giddy. Every thought was about all the food that I could create with that truffle. Damn. It was a mind-meld. I was one with the truffle.
I couldn’t help it. I had to take pictures and text them to a few select individuals. I felt like I was dealing in back alley mind-altering substances. Psst: I got a Truffle. Oh the plans, oh the humanity!! Nothing seals the bond of foodie friendship like a fresh truffle (except maybe a priceless white truffle) and maybe some really expensive champagne. But that’s another dirty little secret.
Pretty much the next three days were lost to this damn truffle. I ate gently scrambled eggs in butter with truffles for dinner that night…and for breakfast the next morning…and for lunch. It was quick, perfect, and I’m greedy.
I needed to come up with something to work with the menu I had planned for Sunday guests.
Duck eggs? Check. Heavy cream? Check. Black truffle? Check.
The trick here was to keep it subtle yet memorable. This time of year, a black truffle needs a bit of coaxing for the full flavor to really stop you in your tracks. I decided to finely dice the truffle and add it to my custard base with a bit of kosher salt. I stored it in the fridge to soak all day.
When I got home that night, I portioned the custard into 8 ramekins and baked them in a water bath for thirty minutes. I pulled them early while they were seriously jiggly in the center, cooled them on a rack, and double wrapped them with plastic to chill and fester in the fridge overnight.
You know what happened here: I had half of a ramekin for dinner while it was still warm and the other half for breakfast the next morning. Hot or cold, this truffle custard made my knees weak.
Sunday lunch was such an awesome meal, mostly because I was finally meeting the parents of a really dear friend. Said parents live outside of the U.S., and though I had exchanged notes and emails, we had never actually met in person. As expected these are the kind of people who instantly light your heart on fire with their happiness and positive outlook.
Also at that table was my favorite fellow truffle fanatic. She and I are cohorts in some major wine and cheese and truffle incidents. We have culinary history. I could not wait to see the look on her face when she dipped her spoon into that custard!
I confess, I was smug about the outcome. All I heard at the table was the clink and scrape of silver spoons inside those ramekins. The whole table all but licked their dishes clean. There was a collective sigh as I pushed and coaxed everyone to pass the pork shoulder, the squash, and the spinach with goat cheese stuffed portabella mushrooms.
And that is the trouble with truffles.
A serious meal was on the table and the starter course had shocked the guests into a near catatonic state.
I lost three days in obsession over the damn thing, and there is still a tiny little sliver remaining. It is wrapped in a fresh paper towel inside a sealed jar inside the fridge. I change the stupid paper towel each day like some crazed devotee with a mission.
Did you hear that?
The truffle is calling me.
- Oven 350 degrees
- 8- 4 ounce oven proof ramekins
- Baking pan large enough and deep enough to use as a water bath for baking
- Heavy Cream 3 ½ cups
- Whole Milk 2 cups
- Salt 1 tsp
- Duck Eggs 4
- Duck Yolks 2
- Black Truffle-finely dice about 16 shaved slices.
- The day before serving: In a glass mixing bowl combine duck eggs and egg yolks and whisk together until the yolks are combined. Add the salt and stir and then add all of the cream and milk. Stir all of this together gently, try not to create a lot of air bubbles. Make sure the eggs are completely stirred into the dairy.
- Pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer into another bowl or pitcher. This is a really important step for the silky texture of the final product! If you don’t have a truffle shaver just cut slices as thin as possible and then run your knife through the truffles to make a fine dice. I don't own a truffle slicer either but this is what it looks like.
- This is a flavoring ingredient and you want to expose as much of the truffle surface to the custard as possible. Add the Black Truffles and stir. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours.
- To bake: Allow ramekins to come to room temperature. Boil enough water to add to the water bath pans. My full electric kettle boils just enough water to come half way up the side of any container in my water bath pan.
- Place the ramekins in the dry pan you will be using for a water bath and carefully place pan(s) onto the middle rack of the hot oven and pour the boiling water into the baking pan until it comes to halfway up the ramekins.
- Bake for 30 minutes and gently test for doneness by jiggling a ramekin to see if the center is still loose. The best description is a wiggly center smaller than a dime.
- Carefully pull from the oven and allow to cool a bit before removing from the water bath to cool completely. I move the ramekins to a wire rack placed on a kitchen towel to catch drips.
- When cool enough to handle wrap each container in plastic wrap and chill at least 8 hours or overnight before serving.