IT’S BE­GIN­NING TO SMELL A LOT LIKE CHRIST­MAS

These “di­a­monds of the kitchen” are the em­bod­i­ment of gas­tro­nomic lux­ury. Xie Huiqun rel­ishes the ways you can cre­ate a truf­fle-cen­tric menu this fes­tive sea­son.

Epicure (Indonesia) - - CONTENTS -

A truf­fle-cen­tric Christ­mas feast

The cap­ti­vat­ing aroma of a fine truf­fle is a many-splen­doured thing. “Of gar­lic, honey, wet earth or grass,” de­scribes Gior­gio Richiardi, a judge with the Cen­tro Nazionale Studi del Tartufo (Na­tional Cen­tre for the Study of Truf­fles) of Alba, Italy, who judges at truf­fle com­pe­ti­tions held at both the na­tional and re­gional truf­fle fairs in Pied­mont. Like with wines, the judges would look out for con­sis­tency, in­tegrity and, above all, the aroma of the truf­fles. Truf­fles, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Cen­tre for the Study of Truf­fles, are the “fruit­ing bod­ies (sporo­carps) of fungi” and are in the genus Tu­ber, and must live in sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ships with cer­tain trees (oak trees seem favoured). The New Larousse Gas­tronomique, the quin­tes­sen­tial culi­nary en­cy­clo­pe­dia, writes that “truf­fles are eaten raw or cooked, cut into strips or slices, diced or shred­ded, in the form of juice, fumet or essence, or sim­ply for their fra­grance”. It goes fur­ther to de­scribe that if you place truf­fles in a bas­ket with some eggs, those will make the best boiled eggs ever – a tes­ta­ment of the prow­ess of their scent. Fans of these aro­matic gems may be fa­mil­iar with the com­par­a­tively more af­ford­able sum­mer black truf­fles and the highly prized (and priced) Périg­ord black truf­fles, which are at their best in the late win­ter. Think: truf­fles thinly sliced atop warm, but­tery, creamy, scram­bled eggs; a clas­sic truf­fle Madeira sauce where chopped black truf­fle is added at the last minute and gen­tly sim­mered be­fore but­ter is added; or a chicken with sliced black truf­fle tucked un­der its skin and roasted to a gor­geous golden brown. “There are var­i­ous types of black truf­fles, and only one of white truf­fle, and they can be col­lected only from mid-septem­ber to mid-jan­uary. Black truf­fles can be cooked, sliced and warmed be­fore use. White truf­fles can only be (used) sliced on top of dishes. They are usu­ally best in warm dishes, but are also good with tartare or soft cheeses,” ex­plains Richiardi, who flew in spe­cially to share his ex­per­tise on truf­fles at an ex­clu­sive din­ner held in Novem­ber at one Miche­lin­starred Braci fea­tur­ing the cov­eted Alba white truf­fle.

“The white truf­fle has a cer­tain del­i­cate­ness that no other truf­fles have – it is what makes it so unique and spe­cial. We need that del­i­cate aroma to bal­ance the other com­po­nents. No other types of truf­fles would do,” says chef- restau­ra­teur Beppe De Vito of il­lido Group. For De Vito, who cre­ated the menu for the above­men­tioned five-course white truf­fles de­gus­ta­tion din­ner to­gether with Braci’s head chef Mirko Feb­brile, white truf­fles are best savoured with hot dishes, as the fra­grance is more pro­nounced that way. He adds that they are also best with pro­duce with sweet and fresh or nutty and earthy flavours, such as root veg­eta­bles, tar­ragon, ar­ti­chokes, fen­nel, vine­gar, and egg yolk. This ex­quis­ite grasp of flavour pro­files gives rise to un­con­ven­tional com­bi­na­tions at the de­gus­ta­tion din­ner that take the form of dishes such as Mille Crepe, Ri­cotta di Bu­fala, Sea Urchin, Caviar and Alba Truf­fles; Blue Lob­ster, Au­tumn Veg­eta­bles, Five Pep­pers Jus and Alba Truf­fles; and Sendai Wagyu, Scor­zon­era, IPA, Ta­leg­gio and Alba Truf­fles, where the “white di­a­mond” is shaved over the dishes à la minute for a multi-sen­so­rial ex­pe­ri­ence – guests will first be treated to the won­der­ful whiff of the white truf­fle be­fore savour­ing the dishes proper. For dessert, a home­made white truf­fle gelato coated with al­mond choco­late and ac­com­pa­nied by an ed­i­ble soil, which is made of dried porcini and morels mush­rooms, grounded al­monds, wal­nuts aad hazel­nut oil and pumper­nickel bread. Martin Foo, group ex­ec­u­tive chef of Crys­tal Jade Group, shares that it is ideal to en­joy truf­fles fresh and on its own to fully ex­pe­ri­ence the deep aro­mas and earthy flavours. The veteran chef, who is known for his mod­ern Chi­nese dishes, also points out that there are many truf­fle prod­ucts avail­able, such as truf­fle oil, and these can all be used to con­coct sauces and stir-fried with meats, seafood or veg­eta­bles. “Whole truf­fles can also be used in dou­ble­boiled soup. The truf­fle brings out the flavours of the in­gre­di­ents used in the soup, and gives the broth a rich in­tense flavour,” says Foo. One cre­ation he has in mind is a soy­bean milk-based thick soup with shred­ded win­ter melon and shi­take mush­rooms. A touch of white truf­fle oil is added to en­hance the taste of the soup and it will be ideal to top it off with freshly shaved truf­fles. Most re­cently, Foo pre­sented his take on Black Truf­fle Roasted Ir­ish Duck at Crys­tal Jade Palace at Ngee Ann City, where he is also the res­i­dent chef, as part of a spe­cial menu that ended its run ear­lier this Septem­ber. “Roast meats are an in­te­gral part of Can­tonese cuisine. We wanted to cre­ate a mod­ern ren­di­tion by in­ject­ing new el­e­ments; while still re­tain­ing fa­mil­iar flavours, so as to ex­cite our reg­u­lar din­ers, as well as at­tract younger, po­ten­tial con­sumers,” says Foo, who uses black truf­fles from Italy as “this par­tic­u­lar truf­fle is deeply- aro­matic, and not too pun­gent”. The dish proved so pop­u­lar that Foo is still get­ting calls from din­ers for him to pre­pare the dish for them (pre-or­ders can be made a day in ad­vance).

“There are var­i­ous types of black truf­fles, and only one of white truf­fle, and they can be col­lected only from mid-septem­ber to mid-jan­uary. Black truf­fles can be cooked, sliced and warmed be­fore use. White truf­fles can only be (used) sliced on top of dishes; they are usu­ally best in warm dishes, but are also good with tartare or soft cheeses,” ex­plains Gior­gio Richiardi.

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