Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Try This at Home

Last weekend while visiting wine country with some of the Kellogg girls, I was exposed to the magic that is truffle salt.

I have, historically, struggled a bit with the truffle. Like blue cheese, it can occasionally (but not reliably) trigger a migraine for me. It only takes a couple of migraines before I am wary of an ingredient, and I had been avoiding truffles, truffle oil, etc. for some time.

Then, last weekend at Williamson Wines, I was served a tiny bite of cheese with a pinch of truffle salt on it to pair with my pinot noir and, well, things changed.

I got over the fear of a migraine. This stuff is just too good.

The result of this exposure was that I immediately purchased and have spent the better part of my cooking efforts this week experimenting with ways to use my $24 pot of black gold.

Here's a rundown for you.

Experiment 1: Kraft Macaroni and Cheese
My friend Emilie, who was part of last weekend's wine country festivities, is directly responsible for this because she works on this brand at Kraft. And I'm nothing if not a suggestible consumer.

The verdict: Three of five stars. Good fundamental idea, but salty. Really salty. I was gulping multiple glasses of water about an hour after this. But this would be an awesome pairing if I ever had actual truffles. Or if I ever buy some truffle oil...I bet you could sub part of the butter in the mix recipe for the oil. Yum. I may have to go buy truffle oil. Or make mac & cheese from scratch...Nah. I never have been a fan of processed foods, except for the blue box. I love it.

Experiment 2: Bread and Butter
I had read about this use for truffle salt online: just take some toasted baguette, spread a little butter on top, sprinkle with truffle salt, and voila.

The verdict: Three stars. Not bad, if you are desperate for a reason to use your truffle salt. I mean, this is good, and better than just plain old butter and sea salt, but it's not taking home any awards for creativity. And how often, really, am I eating just plain bread and butter. Not that often.

Experiment 3: Bread and Cream Cheese
I admit, I was on a bit of a carb binge and after Experiment 2 was a relative nonstarter, I decided to up the ante with a little cream cheese rather than butter.

The verdict: Not bad at all. In fact, surprisingly good. Somehow this was less salty and more truffle-y than the bread-butter combo. Three and a half stars.

Experiment 4: Salmon
I used the truffle salt in place of regular salt in seasoning a piece of salmon to be baked in a foil packet. After rubbing a bit of truffle salt all over the fish, I dotted it with a teaspoon of butter in little bits and sealed it in a foil packet. It baked at 400 for about 15 minutes.

The verdict: No stars assigned. Unfortunately, I overshot the baking time by about 5 minutes, so my salmon came out of the foil packet practically as if it had come out of a can. Don't get me wrong, I ate it, even though I couldn't help hearing that Fancy Feast "ding, ding" chime in my head as I did. The truffle scent was still around but that was about it. I can't fault the truffle salt for my cooking error, though. We'll have to take a mulligan on this one.

Experiment 5: Mashed Potatoes
Alongside the salmon, I served mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus (prepared using normal salt - it did seem a bit excessive - garish, really - to use truffle salt on all three meal components). The mashed potatoes couldn't have been easier to make: I boiled two smallish yukon golds, with their skins on. I then smashed them up with my pastry blender (potentially the only kitchen gadget I don't own is a masher because I never make mashed potatoes), added a little nonfat yogurt (about a tablespoon) and a teaspoon or so of butter, smashed 'em up some more, and seasoned them with truffle salt. This could not have been easier.

The verdict: Six of five stars. I ate the entire bowl. It is worth noting that I never eat mashed potatoes. Not even at Thanksgiving (although I know how we're making them next year!) This combo had the heady truffle aroma as well as the earthy flavor. Holy crap, these were amazing.

Experiment 6: Asparagus & Parmesan Frittata
Coming off the previous night's potato success, I felt good about my chances with eggs. After all, scrambled eggs and truffle salt are rumored to be like peanut butter and jelly. I wanted to incorporate a vegetable into my eggs, and given the options in my fridge, asparagus seemed the most likely to pair nicely with the truffles. So I made a frittata for one, using this rough plan:

Chop up some asparagus on the diagonal (I used 6 fat spears because I wanted a lot of vegetable in my eggs), blanch these for a minute or two in boiling water, rinse under cool water to stop the cooking, and blot dry. In a medium bowl, combine two whole eggs and one egg white, along with 1/4 cup of grated parmesan and 1/4 teaspoon of truffle salt. Add the blanched asparagus and toss to coat. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons of olive oil in a 7" frying pan. When hot, turn the heat to medium low and dump in the egg mixture. Don't touch the pan or anything in it for 10 minutes. When 10 minutes has elapsed, move the frying pan to your preheated 350 degree oven. Bake until the top of the frittata is set, about 5-10 minutes. Loosen the bottom of the frittata with a spatula and invert onto a plate. Dinner is served.

The verdict: Four stars. Not as truffle-y as I'd have liked but any more salt and this would have been like drinking from the Dead Sea.

The bottom line: For God's sake, make yourself some truffle-salted mashed potatoes. Stat!

1 comment:

Alessandra said...

The mac and cheese with truffle salt sound awesome (obviously), but as you said, the saltiness might be overkill to do it more than once. I've actually had a dinner with four cheese risotto and truffle oil. It was not nearly as salty and had all the amazing flavors of truffles!

I don't know how I feel about truffle salt. Maybe on sweet potato fries (like in Palm Springs!)