Known as the white Alba truffle, Tuber magnatum pico is famous for its distinct aroma and intense, earthy flavor. This gem of nature is meticulously hand-collected in Italy’s Piedmont region and flown to D’Artagnan directly … and our first shipments of the season have begun to arrive! White truffles are usually available from October to December, and availability dwindles depending on the weather in Italy. So get them while you can…
The Taste of Truffles
It is difficult to express the nuances of flavor in a white truffle, though it is often described as garlicky, or reminiscent of shallots. But that description does not do justice to its earthy flavor, with a hint of the nuts from the trees whose roots shelter the truffles. The white truffle is pungent and unforgettable, a mixture of mineral and animal secretion with woodsy notes. The firm flesh of a white truffle is pale cream to light brown in color, with white marbling throughout.
The white truffle must awaken something primal in those who eat it, because its adherents are many, and they are passionate. Truffles are the true fruit of the earth, more rare and precious than any other edible root, tuber or mushroom. There is no other flavor like them on earth, which is perhaps why they are so often described as heavenly.
Called the “diamond of the kitchen” by 18th-century epicurean Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the truffle is prized among discerning food lovers. Ancient Romans attributed therapeutic and aphrodisiac properties to the truffle, and though this remains unproven today, there is certainly a love bordering on fervor for truffles.
How Do Truffles Grow?
Truffles grow a few inches down in the earth, in symbiosis with the roots of hardwood trees like oaks, chestnut, hazelnut and hornbeam. The irregularly shaped, knobby little spheres range in size from an inch or so across to over a pound (though truffles of that size are rare).
These fragrant fungi are located by the keen noses of specially trained dogs that can smell them through the earth. Once pigs were used for this task, but they were too eager to eat the truffles they found. In Italy the Lagotto Romagnolo breed is popular for truffle hunting, but any dog can be trained to find the fragrant truffles.
Cooking with White Truffles
The first rule of cooking with white truffles is that you never cook them. The power of their flavor is in their strong scent, and cooking them will destroy that. Simply slice them thinly (a truffle shaver is a must for this task) over a finished dish of pasta, risotto, egg dishes, or even foie gras (this is known as gilding the lily). The heat of the cooked dish is just enough to release the aroma of the truffle, enhancing the natural pungency.
Once a fresh truffle is out of the ground, it doesn’t keep long. To best preserve your truffle, wrap it in a paper towel, put in an airtight plastic container and set in the refrigerator. Do not clean the truffle until you are ready to use it. Avoid condensation and humidity which can cause rot. If you wish, store the truffle with eggs in the refrigerator to impart its flavor into the eggs, but be sure the shells are perfectly dry. Even though you will see this everywhere – do not store your truffle in dry rice, as the rice dehydrates the truffle and absorbs the aroma.
Order your white truffle from dartagnan.com.
And be sure to share photos with us! Tag @dartagnanfoods on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and tell us about your truffle experience.