Truffle is a type of fungal mushroom that lives underground, and usually thrives around trees and other plants, given their symbiotic nature of existence. Certain varieties of these mushrooms are comestible, but truffles are often exorbitantly priced, and therefore, adorn only gourmet platters. By large, French, Germans, Italians, Spanish, Croatians, and Dutch high cuisine uses truffles for their exotic taste and aroma.
Real truffle oil is the infusion of truffles in a base oil rather than being extracted from fungal truffles. Generally, olive oil or grape seed oil is used as the base oil, in which truffles are steeped. This renders the base oil with a strong, primarily acrid, and typically earthy aroma. Real truffle oil, however, cannot be stored for a very long duration once the seal is broken, as the quintessential truffle aroma dissipates with time. Storing it in the fridge helps hold the flavor for a little longer though. It may take on a clouded look, but the quality remains alright. Sealed oil remains fine for about a year’s time if kept away from heat and harsh light.
Both white and black truffle oils are available for culinary purposes. Black truffles are largely found in the French Périgord region, and are known to exude their best aroma in the winter month of January, whereas, white truffle varieties are at their best from the summer season to the beginning of fall, depending on where they grow in Italy. So, they are infused accordingly in oils so as to extract the maximum aromatic effect. The white truffle oil variety is aromatically meeker than the black one. This oil became popular in the 1950s, because truffles are so expensive that not everyone can lay their hands on it. Moreover, it is not used to lubricate utensils for frying or sautéing purposes at all. It is not heated on a flame, but rather used to make condiments like vinaigrette and salad dressings, wherein, it is mizzled unto the salad from top.
Synthetic Truffle Oil
Sadly, real truffle oil is hardly available in the USA. Instead, what is available is a substitute made from infusing chemicals such as 2,4-dithiapentane with a base oil. It gives a similar aroma, but is synthetic nevertheless. So, even though there is no way in which you can tell the difference, try to buy it from select stores which procure only gourmet products which are not abundantly available in the market. Prices may be an indication of whether the oil is real or fake, but one doesn’t really know how a manufacturer will mask the product to sell it in the market.
Recipes Using Truffle Oil
Mixed Leafies with Truffle Oil Dressing
For churning up this salad for a small and cozy gathering of 6, you should have,
- Baby spinach leaves, 2 minor heads (stemmed and crudely hacked to small pieces)
- Basil leaves, 1 bundle (fresh, stemmed and crudely hacked to small pieces)
- Sea salt, to taste
Now for the dressing, you must have,
- White truffle oil, 2 tbsp.
- Extra virgin olive oil, 1½ tbsp.
- Champagne wine vinegar, 1 tbsp.
- Sea salt, ½ tsp.
- Lemon juice, ¼ tsp.
- Black pepper, a pinch
Start with the dressing of course and in a relatively large bowl pour the two varieties of oil, the vinegar and lemon juice and start to whip them together. Sprinkle the salt and pepper from top and then whisk until you get a smooth, uniform consistency. Then you need to place the leafies in another bowl and add the dressing to it. Toss well for around 5 – 7 minutes till everything gets coated well. Make sure you make the salad just before mealtime so that it’s gobbled up immediately.
(Tip: You can make the dressing a little ahead of time and store in the fridge, but always remember to bring it to the normal room temperature before using it to make the salad.)
Mushroom Linguini with Truffle Cream Sauce
This will delight your children on a movie night when their brains and palates shall get tickled at the same time. Gather the following,
- Linguini, 8 oz. (cooked)
- Crimini mushrooms, 1 pound (slivered)
- Parsley, taken from 5 twigs (crudely hacked)
- Thyme, taken from 2 twigs (finely cut)
- Eschalot, 1 (finely chopped)
- Garlic, 2 cloves (finely chopped)
- Cream, 1 cup
- Red wine, ¼ cup
- Truffle oil, 2 tbsp.
- Butter, 2 tbsp.
Place a cooking pan on the stove and allow it to warm on a medium flame. Add butter and when it heats up, throw in the minced eschalot along with the garlic. Keep stirring until the eschalot bits take on a clear look and then throw in the mushrooms and the thyme. Increase the flame a tad and allow the mushrooms to get cooked for about 7 minutes. Stir twice so that the mushroom doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Then pour the wine and sauté thoroughly until the wine has reduced totally and finally pour the cream into the pan. You need to keep stirring for another 7 minutes and until then a nice creamy condiment will be ready. Take it off the flame and then add the oil with the sauce. Mix well and pour it out onto the pasta and mix well with a spatula. Serve hot and see every one lickin’ it up!
Lobster Salad with Truffle Oil
This recipe again will allow you to satiate half a dozen hungry people and makes for a delicious brunch course. You will need,
- Lobsters, 4 (each weighing 1 pound, cooked, shelled and cubed)
- Tomatoes, 2 pounds (ripened, skinned and cubed)
- Extra virgin olive oil, 3 oz
- White balsamic vinegar, 2 oz
- White truffle oil, 1 ounce
- Arugula, taken from 3 bundles (washed)
- Tarragon, taken from 1 bundle (washed and finely shredded)
- Fennel bulbs, 2 (chopped very finely)
- Red vine tomato, 1 (large, ripe, skinned and puréed smooth)
- Lemon juice, of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper, to taste
First, mizzle two-thirds of the olive oil along with vinegar, tarragon, salt, and pepper into the puréed tomato. Mix, cover and allow it to stand for sometime. In the meanwhile, mix the oil with the leftover olive oil in another vessel. Also add the lemon juice, salt, pepper, fennel and blend until the fennel is well caked with the oils. To this add the arugula and toss again. In a third vessel, place the diced tomatoes with the lobster. Now, heat the tarragon dressing in a cooking pan just a little bit and pour it into the lobster and tomatoes. Mix vehemently by tossing. To serve, first layer a platter with the fennel-arugula dressing and then a helping of the lobster tomato mélange!
(Tip: Do not over cook the lobsters or else the salad will lose its crispness.)