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Truffle Oil Chronicles

jerry i h | Jan 26, 200807:50 PM

Last summer, my local gourmet grocery store had a clearance sale on truffle oil. They normally cost fifteen to twenty bucks a pop, but I got a 3 oz. made in Italy bottle for about five bucks. I got one white, and one black. Brand: Sabatino Tartufi, infuso altartufo nero in olive oil, made in Italy, and a similar bottle of white truffle.

I read Escoffier cover to cover, and my strongest impression was his obsession with truffles. So, since I respect his culinary skills but perhaps not as strongly as I ought, explored his world of truffles. My first discovery was that no way would I be able to grate fresh truffles on everything short of selling my car and buying fresh truffles. So, I settled on truffle-flavored oil listed above from my local store.

Like Escoffier, I sprinkled these 2 puppies on everything. I began to appreciate the words of more than one restaurant critic from the local SF-Bay Area, that they were really tired of truffle oil being drizzled on every damn thing, with little culinary merit other than the ability to double the menu price because of the truffle oil. I learned that truffle oil adds a heavenly smell, but NO flavor whatsoever. For truffle oil to have value, the base food must already have some sort of mushroom flavor. In this case, drizzle the truffle oil on top, and you will be in heaven. Sprinkle the oil on something without any mushroom flavor, the smell and flavor will be totally different, and your dish is actually WORSE with the truffle oil than without.

If you have any experiences with real truffles or truffle oil, I would be interested in hearing about it.

So, here are the rules I have discovered based on my very opinionated experience:
1) add truffle oil only to those dishes that already have a strong mushroom flavor
2) truffle oil on scrambled eggs is heavenly, even plain and without other flavors
3) truffle oil mixed in butter and spread on croutons; this and white wine is the ultimate lunch.

My first encounter with truffles was a small tin with perhaps a dozen truffles. They were all perfectly round and black and had a bumpy surface, sort of like asphalt. I sliced them into salads at a pot=luck. Some greedily scooped up huge amounts, others left these bits conspicuously on the plates when finished. To me, it tasted like dirt and I did not like it. This small tin cost a hundred smackers, and this was wholesale about a decade ago.

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