I hope you’ve all been well. Been a pretty great couple of weeks in LTLT land, having helped out a few new customers with their wine selections and also receiving a very lovely write-up in the food and travel blog ‘Sharking for Chips and Drinks’. Thanks to all of you who read it, enjoyed it and most of all shared the love on facebook and twitter, I really appreciate it. If you missed it, the article can be found here.
Anyways, time for my own blog, and this week I thought I’d write a short piece on those little fungus diamonds – truffles. It’s truffle season in Australia at the moment; and after cooking with truffle a couple of years ago, Mrs LTLT and I decided to get a sample and have a ‘quiet weekend in’ with some great food and great wine. After saturating our instagram and twitter feeds with food porn I thought it deserved a quick blog to talk about some food and wine pairings if you have the fortune of cooking with this amazing (and amazingly rare) ingredient.
Many would be familiar with the smell and taste of truffle via the ubiquitous ‘truffle salt’ and ‘truffle oil’ that are oft used to spice up risottos and eggs. They’re a fantastic ingredient, and when fresh have oodles more earthy complexity than these preserved (or synthetic) products. It’s an intense flavour that supports rather than overpowers – and your choice of dish and wine should consider this.
Most importantly – truffles love fat. It’s a well known trick to store truffles in an air-tight container with some eggs to allow the truffle flavour to permeate the shell and infuse with the yolks (best breakfast ever). The fat carries and enhances the flavour of the fungus, adding an extra dimension to the dish on top of the seductive aroma – oil is good, butter better and I’ve heard that goose fat is the bees knees; but we all have our limits… These dishes also help direct your wine choice as you want a wine with some nice stiff acidity to cut through the mouth-coating texture of the food.
On the weekend we cooked a Spaghetti Carbonara (Garlic, truffle-infused egg yolk, parmesan, parsley, fresh strips of prosciutto – NO CREAM) and shaved fresh truffle over the top. The heat from the pasta both lifts the truffle aromas and helps to start melting it into the dish – and the more contact it gets with the fatty sauce the better. Chardonnay proved a great match – the 2011 Giant Steps ‘Arthurs Creek’ Chardonnay, brimming with acid from the cool vintage, sliced through the fat of the dish while supporting the complex flavours of the truffle. An 09 Domaine de Bellene St Romain Blanc (Chardonnay) also sat well alongside the dish but for me the Giant Steps was the better match (side note – if that ain’t proof of the strength of aussie chard, I don’t know what is!). What you really want is a wine with a bit of complexity that will support without overpowering. Wines such as Arneis, Godello, Chenin Blanc & Gruner Veltliner would do pretty well; as could more familiar grapes such as a nice textural riesling or a semillon with a bit of age.
Moving into the second course we prepared spatchcock 3 ways – Ballotine (filled with truffle! and cooked in a home made sous vide machine – thanks Leezee), Breast on the crown, and winglet – served with potato dauphinoise. All was of course finished with a generous serving of microplaned truffle! The primary wine chosen for this dish was an 09 Aldo Conterno ‘Il Favot’ Langhe Nebbiolo, drawing on the classic match of truffles and Nebbiolo, and sourcing the wine from the Piedmont region of Italy – the home of the truffle. Nebbiolo is such a great match for truffle dishes for many a reason – it’s got plenty of acid (and tannin) to mop up the fatty dishes, it’s flavour profile is decidedly earthy-autumnul, and a good one is chock full of complexity just like the food; Just make sure you give it plenty of time (several hours) to air out before you eat. We also had a glass left over from a bottle of 07 Garagiste Heathcote Syrah that we’d opened the night before, and that also went a treat; with its palate full of graphite, dark spice and bitumen. Other great choices would be Pinot Noir, preferably a more savoury rather than fruity style, cool climate shiraz, any of the other piedmontese grapes (Barbera or Dolcetto) or anything else that was more earthy than jammy.
So that’s it. I have a tiny piece of truffle left, which I’m about to grate over some mac’n’cheese (health food!) before saying goodbye for another year – unless we can’t resist and decide to get another little sample before the season is out…!
Truffles are available from madame truffles, who sell online or have a pop-up store in South Melbourne for the next few weeks if you’re in the area. It’s all on the website here and I highly recommend their service.