Fall is perhaps our favorite time of year for food in Italy. It is the season for plentiful, lush, fresh porcini and the amazing Italian white truffle. There are actually many varieties of truffles, at least 17 different species, but the white truffle from northern Italy tops them all. Truffles are not mushrooms, they are a tuber, and although people have tried to cultivate them, they still seem to be most flavorful when found wild. Truffles are difficult to find, making them rather expensive, especially the white ones. The father of modern gastronomy, Jean Brillat-Savarin, considered truffles to be the diamonds of the kitchen.
There are many products out there that attempt to capture and preserve the flavor of truffles. There are truffle butters, truffle pastes, truffle oils, and jarred preserved truffles. However, fresh truffles are on a different level. Savoring a truffle is more an olfactory sensation than taste. Truffles are earthy, woodsy yet refined. Some believe them to be an aphrodisiac while others say that it is the manna that G-d gave the children of Israel as they walked 40 years through in the desert.
Truffles require very little preparation. They do not need to be cooked; they are simply grated or thinly sliced over whatever food they are enhancing just before serving. Usually, the simplest foods carry its aroma best. Classic pairings include, egg fettuccine sauced with butter and a whiff of Parmigiano-Reggiano, a simple risotto alla Partmigiana, or sunny side up eggs. In Piedmont, they are often served over fried quail eggs. In Valpolicella, one of our favorite pizza toppings is grated black truffle from the Lessini mountains. Delicate meat-filled caramelle, small candy shaped filled pasta, are also delicious with shaved black truffles on top.
Giuliano recently returned from teaching courses at our cooking school in Italy with an extraordinary gift from our friend, Giorgio Soave, the chef/owner of Groto de Corgnan, the restaurant in Valpolicella where we take our students the first night of our course. Giorgio’s passion for using the best ingredients leads him to drive an hour up the mountain to where the road ends then hike another 45 minutes to obtain the best butter and local cheeses we’ve ever experienced. The white and black truffles he gave Giuliano, where hand-picked by him.
We used the white truffle first, shaved over hand-made egg fettuccine Giuliano made in a jet-lagged stupor. We had barely had time to celebrate our anniversary before Giuliano left for Italy, so this was a perfect continued celebration of our anniversary. We are proud to have children who appreciate good food and, although it meant having a little less for ourselves, we loved to hear them ooh and ahh over our celebratory meal.
The following day, Giuliano decided to top veal scaloppini with shavings of the black truffle. Lael was a bit apprehensive, not sure that the meat would carry the truffle flavor. She quickly changed her mind with the first bite. The delicate flavor of the scaloppini highlighted the earthy qualities of the black truffle. The thin overlapping truffle shavings on top of the succulent still warm meat exuded an aroma that brought all to the table immediately. We (children included) agreed it was a winning combination.
Amazingly, we still had some black truffle remaining. So lunch the next day was an aristocratic breakfast of sunny side up fresh eggs topped with shavings of our remaining black truffle. The taste memories of our truffle extravaganza will stay with us for a long time and we send our sincerest grazie mille to Giorgio Soave.
Veal Scaloppine with Truffles
© by Giuliano Hazan
Preparation time: 20 minutes
1 pound veal scaloppine
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
About ½ cup all purpose flour
Freshly ground black pepper
A 2-3 ounce fresh black truffle
1. Pound the veal.
2. Spread the flour on a small plate. Put the oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet and place over medium high heat. While the oil and butter are heating, coat with the flour as many slices of veal as will comfortably fit in the pan, shaking off the excess. Do not dredge all the veal in the flour at once or it will become soggy.
3. When the oil and butter are quite hot, and the butter is just beginning to turn color, put in as many scaloppine as will comfortably fit. When they have lightly browned on both sides and lost their pink raw color, less than a minute per side, remove them, letting the excess oil drip back into the skillet. Set them aside on a platter. Flour and cook the remaining veal in the same manner. If the pan becomes too dry, add a little more oil when the pan is empty, and let it get hot before continuing. When all the scaloppine are done, season them with salt and pepper.
4. If there is more than a coating of oil left in the pan, pour it out. Pour any juices that the meat on the platter has released into the skillet and add enough water so that there is about 1/8 –inch of liquid in the pan. Use a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits on the bottom of the skillet and let the liquid bubble away until it has reduced and thickened into a sauce, 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and remove the pan from the heat. Stir the butter into the sauce then put the scaloppine back into the pan, turning each one in the sauce to heat them through. Place the scaloppine on a serving platter large enough to accommodate them in a single layer and pour the sauce over them. Use a truffle slicer or vegetable peeler to slice the truffle into thin shavings over the scaloppine. Serve at once.
* Giuliano will again be appearing on the TODAY SHOW, Wednesday, October 20th during the 9-10 am hour. Please let us know if you see him. He will be preparing two risotto recipes. Yes, we will blog about them and show video!