Love, Truffle Oil and a Bit of “THE LUXE LIFE”

You know, you’ve just GOTTA love a guy who brings you home a great, big bottle of black truffle extra virgin olive oil especially when he detests it! Isn’t it great when someone you love just “gets ya”? Well, recently that is what my partner did for me. No bouquet of roses; no big box of chocolates or anything else one may think of as a romantic cliché. However, when I saw that 750ml bottle of black Truffle Oil, I could NOT have been happier!

La Tourangelle Black Truffle Oil

La Tourangelle Black Truffle Oil (Photo credit: KevinElliottChi)

I was happy mostly because, 1) my partner remembered my mentioning of how I love Truffle Oil (either white or black) for its earthy, slightly unctuous mouth-feel that I would drizzle over practically everything (but not cook with and I’ll get to why later), and 2) buying this oil, for me, happens very infrequently as it can be quite expensive…more so than ANY bouquet of roses, LOL!

Having a little bit of luxury, no matter in what form, always lifts one’s spirits and it certainly did mine. As soon as I could get the wrapping off of the Truffle Oil bottle, I starting to make a simple dinner – panko crusted pork loin cutlets; steamed green beans and smashed red potatoes with a bit of cream and butter.

I have been running low on my pantry staples such as fresh and dried herbs so the flavorings to those dishes were minimal (thank GOD for salt and pepper!), but once everything was completed, I drizzled just a few drops of the Truffle Oil over everything…well, I did add a bit more to the smashed potatoes.

The oil not only elevated the tastes of those humble ingredients into something more luxe, but the aroma rising up from the hot food was mesmerizing for me. The flavor and bouquet imparted by the Truffle Oil made me feel as though I was seated in a Michelin Star restaurant. I actually had to sit back for a few minutes and enjoy the whole experience before diving in to dinner.

I thought in this post I would depart from some of the instruction from America’s Test Kitchen’s on-line cooking school at http://www.testkitchenschool.com/?Extcode=N2JCBLOG0 and talk not only about truffles, but a bit about other food items that are considered luxurious and a welcomed treat…budgets permitting, of course. And share with you how I was able to experience other culinary delights during what I called a period of “unapologetic gluttony”.

Types of Truffles:

Winter/Summer Black and White Truffles

As explained by Gourmet Food Store – http://www.gourmetfoodstore.com/truffles/types-truffles.asp:

  • Winter Black Truffle
    • The Winter Black Truffle, also known as the “Périgord Truffle” or “The Black
      Black Truffles

      Black Truffles (Photo credit: ulterior epicure)

      Diamond of Provence”, provides the rich, but delicate perfume, and a taste once described as mixture of “chocolate and earth”. These black beauties are the most popular fungi sought by chefs worldwide. These truffles also command an extraordinarily high price for just a small amount. For example, some truffles have sold as high as $6000.00 a pound!

    • Summer Black Truffles
      • The summer black truffle is not as spectacularly fragrant and aromatic as the white truffle, but it does have a very nice perfume, much more subtle, but still quite lovely. They are better utilized by being cooked, to bring out the most of that subtly earthy chocolatey flavor as possible.
  • Winter White Truffle
    • This truffle is often called a “Piedmont Truffle” indicating where the truffle originates, not the species of fungi. This treasure possesses a taste that is often
      White truffle from the woods of Tuscany

      White truffle from the woods of Tuscany (Photo credit: you.go)

      compared to shallots and garlic with an intense earthy and musky aroma.

    • The main disadvantage of Winter White truffles (or any white truffle for that matter) is that although their aroma is intense, it tends to fade pretty quickly, as opposed to black truffles, which are more subtle, but have a longer longevity. Yet this is exactly why white truffles make a magnificent first impression, and why they are primarily used uncooked, mainly shaved or sliced over already prepared dishes, so that their aroma will waft and envelop a dish.
  • Summer White Truffle
    • This would probably be your best bet when going for summer truffles. Although not as highly aromatic as the Winter White truffle, the Summer White still has most of that pungency characteristic of white truffles.
    • They are much more affordable than the winter variety, so it allows for more experimentation and more quantity.
      • The flavor is sweet and with hints of garlic, with a musky fragrance.
      • As with other white truffles, they are best used sliced or shaved over already
        White Truffle Pasta

        White Truffle Pasta (Photo credit: wEnDaLicious)

        cooked dishes, to maximize the aroma of the truffles.

Earlier in this posting, I mentioned why I would never cook with Truffle Oil. There are “cooking oils” and there are “finishing oils”. Cooking oils are just that – oils used (or that should be used) for the sole purpose of cooking.

  • Such examples include Vegetable Oil, Corn Oil, Canola Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Peanut Oil, Olive Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil:
    • Olive Oil has a higher smoking point and is better for browning meats.
    • Extra Virgin Olive Oil is not a preferred cooking oil since its flavor does not stand up to high heat, but it will lend a strong flavor especially when an item is quickly cooked such in a sauté.

In comparison, finishing oils are just that as well – oils used when a recipe is finished and it just needs a final dash or nuance of extra flavor and bouquet.  Toasted Sesame Oil is one such finishing oil.

The powerful flavor and aroma of toasted sesame oil will not last when exposed to heat so it is best used in the absolute final moments of a heated recipe or to dress salads and to use in sauces and marinades.  It is highly perishable so best to store it tightly sealed in your refrigerator.

Back to Truffle Oil, I found a useful article on how best and how to creatively use this oil at, “Zesterdaily.com” – http://zesterdaily.com/world/tradition/truffle-oil-controversy/:

“How to Enjoy Truffle Oil

A cooking oil that should never be used for any actual cooking, truffle oil degrades rapidly, especially in the presence of heat. It’s best to hold the bottle in one hand and your fork in the other before you apply droplets to scrambled eggs, gnocchi or mac and cheese. It has more stamina in cooler applications, such as on popcorn and in vinaigrette.

It’s a convenient mnemonic that white truffle oil best enhances cream-colored foods, including potatoes, chicken, celery root, halibut, onions and cream. I use it habitually with cauliflower, steamed and pureed with butter for a side dish or blended into simple soup — garnished with Dungeness crabmeat for company. Because of its delicacy, I’ve found that you can use more of this truffle oil than the standard import, and it’s too subtle for truffle fries.

One of the best ways to experience true truffle oil is to make truffle butter. Into softened salted butter, blend in two teaspoons, or three for a more pronounced flavor. Wrapped tightly, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Eat it on artisan bread, mashed potatoes or corn on the cob.

No truffle oil is a substitute for even a single fresh truffle. But until I experience my own exotic truffle hunt, I’ll hold onto my bottle of real truffle oil, a miracle of food preservation and an affordable luxury I treasure. At $6 an ounce, it’s a steal.”

Well at least now I know, as well as you do, too, how we can make our own truffle butter. I’m going to try it and report back to you in my next posting!! Can’t wait!!  Should any of you out there try this and find that it works, please provide feedback.  I would love to hear any and all results, please.

So I’m sure that some of you may be wondering what I meant earlier by my period of “unapologetic gluttony”.  There was a time back in the ‘90s when I worked in a high-paying position; saved up quite a bit of money, continued to work, work work, but not enjoy life around me.  I mean, why work and “squirrel away all of those nuts”, if you can’t dig into them from time-to-time, right?

As luck would have it (though I didn’t think it was very lucky at the time), I was laid off from my lucrative though life-sucking job.  After the initial shock of the job loss wore off and after giving up on a fruitless job search I made a decision – I was going to take the better part of a year off; cash in those “nuts” I slaved away at saving and explore some of the enjoyments that life has to offer.  Those enjoyments mostly came in the way of enjoying some luxury food items.

First I have to give credit to one of my best friends, former roommate and frequent partner in crime – Michael McLoughlin – for introducing me to these treats.  Michael was a guy who truly appreciated food and KNEW how to cook.  In fact, he once told me that his aunt was willing to pay his entire tuition to any culinary program of his choice after finishing high school.  He passed because he always wanted cooking to be his hobby and passion rather than just “a job”.

One night when we were just sitting around, we both wanted something for dessert and I knew we had nothing readily available in the house…well, that is what I thought, anyway.  I remember Michael getting up unexpectedly; rattling around in the kitchen and producing a chocolate cake complete with a chocolate buttercream frosting! I was in shock because for me at that time, if something didn’t come out of a box, such a cake, I was lost.  So I asked him how the hell did he make that? Michael said simply, “You just have to go into the pantry and the ‘fridge; look around and be creative.”.  The cake was delicious!

So one of my first forays into trying a luxury food was caviar; again with my partner in crime – Michael. I can’t remember if it was Beluga or Ossetra, but I DO remember my first bite!  It

Black Beluga caviar.

Black Beluga caviar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

was buttery, creamy and I enjoyed the popping of the plump, black eggs against the roof of my mouth and coating my mouth in a combination of that creaminess with the briny brightness of the ocean – HEAVEN!

I have to admit that I was hesitant to try this costly treat at first because I had caviar before, but not like this experience.  The caviar I had tried before at various parties and cocktail events consisted of small, black or red, tiny eggs that had a grainy feeling in my mouth and were just way too salty.  However, after indulging in a true caviar experience, I was an instant convert!

Now I don’t advocate going out there and spending an exorbitant amount of money on a tin of Beluga especially when rent and other bills are screaming for payment in this economy.  However, should you want to indulge, try going in on the product with some friends and enjoy a small tasting party with some sparkling wine such as Proseco.  It may make for a fun way to enjoy a bit of “the luxe life” even if for only a brief time.

Other “unapologetic gluttonous” indulgences of mine and Michael’s include eating foie gras so commonly that I got to a point where I would just slather it onto a Ritz Cracker like Cheez Whiz. Yes, I know that is blasphemous to those of you out there, but I didn’t care!  I ate lobster in all its forms as though it were canned tuna fish and delighted in every mouthful.

Michael and I gobbled down oysters with champagne every Friday at Legal Sea Foods in Boston and we especially loved the tiny Kumamoto Oysters for their delicacy and especially

Kumamoto Oyster Chefs-Resources.com

Kumamoto Oyster Chefs-Resources.com (Photo credit: Theages)

bright flavor; we spent ludicrous amounts of money on Saffron, the world’s most expensive spice just so we could experiment flavoring various paellas and other recipes and the list goes on.

One final and I think funny story I would like to share with you about “The Adventures of Michael and Me” is when Michael packed a picnic basket for a day when we decided to visit Ogunquit Beach in Maine.  I thought he would pack the usual stuff one may bring to the beach to munch on like subs, chips, cookies, sodas, etc.  Well…not exactly…

Michael made a stop at one of our favorite gourmet stores in Boston called Savenor’s Butcher & Market – http://www.savenorsmarket.com/web/ – to get some “munchies”, as he put it. I thought, “Munchies for the beach? At Savenor’s?”.  Anyway, Michael comes back with a grocery bag filled with duck liver pate with truffles; water crackers;  TWO tins of beluga caviar; brie, gorgonzola dolce and the sharpest of cheddars; dried figs, prosciutto slices; and not lobster rolls, but several cooked and halved chicken lobsters!!  Then to wash it all down we had to stop at a liquor store, of course.  No, not for wine coolers, beers or sodas, but Michael picked up two bottles of Veuve Cliquot and a case each of chardonnay and cabernet.  All of that just for a day’s visit to the beach!  I don’t remember much about the beach, but I do remember feeling incredibly happy just munching and sipping on the best food and drink we could afford and best of all – sharing it with a good friend.

Ok, even as I wrote the paragraph above now, I really don’t want to think about the cost of that little picnic basket we put together, but back then, I really didn’t care because I was “unapologetically gluttonous” and I wouldn’t trade the experience of the summer of ’97 for anything in the world!  I was at a point in my life where I was fortunate enough to afford both time off and to afford the cost of enjoying some delicacy items for the first time in my life.  That may have been the point for me where I began a true curiosity and appreciation of food.  And I don’t mean only about delicacies, but mainly the endorphin release I experience when thinking, talking, reading, writing or doing anything that is related to food.

Of course, we all don’t need to eat as I did with Michael in order to develop an enjoyment of food.  Whatever peaks your culinary curiosity or brings you fulfillment when in the kitchen, even if a recipe fails from time to time, learn from it and keep up the pursuit! I think that part of the fun not only of eating is the experimentation/trial and error part of just playing around in your kitchen with recipe clippings you’ve been saving in a drawer somewhere. Well…dig up one of those clippings and give it a shot even if it seems daunting.  Turn your kitchen into your own personal laboratory! You may be very surprised and pleased with whatever may result! If you do, again I would LOVE to hear from you and how you felt about the experience and about the resulting dish, please.

In closing this post, I will say that if any of you out there are the least bit curious about some of the items I mentioned, start small and share your shopping costs with like like-minded friends.  For example, buy a small bottle of truffle oil to see if you like the taste before splurging on huge bottle and finding it unappealing; buy a sparkling wine such as the Proseco I mentioned above which is much more affordable than a bottle of Veuve Cliquot; just try one oyster for the very first time and see how you feel and think even if in the past you may have felt revulsion at the thought; purchase a small amount of duck liver pate, put it on a water cracker and savor the buttery quality it will exude over your taste buds.

I guess all I’m saying is try something at least once.  It can be a new spice, herb, oil, food product or whatever may peak your interest one day when shopping. You never know what may become your next new favorite piece of “The Luxe Life”.

And remember as Julia Child once said:

“This is my invariable advice to people:

Learn to cook – try new recipes, learn from your mistakes,

BE FEARLESS,

And above all have fun!”

Once again, I hope you found this posting to be informative and a bit entertaining. As always, I invite you to follow my blog by looking for the small, black box located at the lower right corner of your screen that says, “Follow”. That will allow you to receive further postings.

And as I always say, I invite your questions, comments, tips and debates that you would like to share.   All of your thoughts are most welcome. Thank you.

Now get out there and COOK!!

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About joewd1967

Everyone always talks about “finding their passion” in life, right? I have always been one of those people. However, I thought that going through a professional culinary program would be expensive and I didn’t relish the idea of graduating with loans to pay while probably starting with a kitchen job peeling potatoes for 10 or more hours a day at minimum wage. So I just stayed in my comfortable, too comfortable, corporate world as a human resources consultant. The work was interesting for a time and the money was excellent, but all the while a part of me needed to do something to satisfy my feelings of, “What if…?”. What if I had gone to culinary school and followed my passion regarding food. And when I say passion, I don’t mean just dining, but learning about where my food comes from; how is it prepared; how to learn about the best tools used by chefs; how do chefs learn to produce fine food over and over with perfect consistency and how to demystify some things (such as sauces and using more exotic ingredients, etc.) so that they might be more readily understood and usable for the home cook? My curiosity list could go on, but I think you get the idea. I came across the America's Test Kitchen Cooking School On-Line Program - http://www.testkitchenschool.com/?Extcode=N2JCBLOG0 – It offered a 2-week free trial and it gave me access to many lessons starting with Cooking Basics, access to instructor and their direct feedback to me and it just goes on from there. So as I explore this on-line culinary journey, I invite you to come along for the ride via my blog and I hope you will find it as enjoyable and as challenging as I will.
This entry was posted in black truffles, Cooking Oils, Culinary School, Finishing Oils, Home Cook, Novice Cook, truffle oil, white truffles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Love, Truffle Oil and a Bit of “THE LUXE LIFE”

  1. Pingback: Love, Truffle Oil and a Bit of “THE LUXE LIFE” | Welcome To My On-Line Cooking School Journey

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