This black truffle was purchased recently at Chelsea Market. The loamy smell is intense, and it comes wrapped in a paper towel. But it looks like a lump of coal.
This is the season when area specialty food stores carry fresh black truffles, and sometimes white ones, too. You can get them at Chelsea Market’s Buon Italia, and at Eataly, too. At about $75 per ounce, the costs seems prohibitive till you realize that a single truffle will set you back around $40. For a splurge or special occasion, you might spend that on a bottle of wine, why not on a truffle, which is considered one of the world’s great delicacies.
The problem is, we’ve all become accustomed to truffle oil, which many restaurants spritz intemperately on such things as french fries and mac-and-cheese. Truffle oil is an artificial chemical (there are rare exceptions), and doesn’t really taste like truffle. Sadly, it has become what most people think truffles taste like.
So you buy your truffle. Now what do you do with it? A real truffle is woodsy and slightly funky smelling, like a freshly dug mushroom times 10. Yes, there are French recipes that incorporate truffles — such as Tournedos Rossini — but those mask the truffle taste with all sorts of other strong flavors. These recipes mainly exist to show how the wealthy can afford to use the tubers just like any other ingredient and damn the expense.
But if you really want to enjoy a truffle, and savor its surpassing subtlety, keep the recipe as simple as possible. Indeed, there are only two things to be done with a fresh truffle: showcase it in scrambled eggs, or with a fresh pasta such as fettuccine. In both treatments, you add only butter and salt. That way the real flavor you paid for shines through. Taste a real truffle, and you may gag the next time you detect truffle oil in a restaurant.
Grate the truffle into scrambled eggs just as the eggs are beginning to set, and save a few perfect shaving to put on top when you serve it.