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At this time of year, I start thinking a lot about truffles. The normal questions appear on my list: Dark chocolate? White chocolate? Raspberry flavored? Maybe try a new flavor?
We're not talking about chocolate truffles. We're talking about the kinds that send enthusiasts out hunting in the woods and chefs into a tizzy. Like the chocolate variety, the truffles we're talking about come in varieties including white, black, Alba, and burgundy. Shape aside, however, that might be where the comparisons stop.
If the word "truffle" makes you think about the chocolate treats, allow for a quick primer on the other kind of truffle. Truffles are a fungus that grow within the shadow of oak trees, but that's not to say that all fungus growing near or at the base of an oak tree is a truffle. Black truffles are frequently found growing among the oak and hazelnut trees in the Périgord region of France, and burgundy truffles are found all through Europe. White truffles are common in the Langhe and Montferrat areas of northern Italy. But truffles aren't just a European delicacy. You can find truffles in Australia, the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and even in the southern states, growing alongside pecan trees. Wherever they're found, though, truffles can best be described as having an earthy, pungent, and musky flavor. Sometimes, they're described as being slightly garlicky.
If you've never tried a truffle, you're in luck. Aside from fresh truffles, truffles can be added to your favorite dish in the form of truffle salt, flour, honey, butter, and, yes, oil. Try a shake of truffle salt on scrambled eggs, an omelet, or a baked potato. Use truffle flour to bring life to a bechamel sauce or substitute it in your favorite dough recipe. Consider adding truffle honey to your next fruit and cheese platter to add a strong truffle flavor. Use truffle oil as a substitute for oil in a normal recipe and create a whole new flavor.
Once you've had a taste, you may be ready to dive in and try truffles thinly shaved over homemade egg pasta or risotto. Insert slices under the skin of a chicken or turkey the night before roasting or shave black truffles over linguine. Truffle slices should be paper thin wedges or strips — maximize the flavor while using as little ingredient as possible. Pair your truffles with fats to bring out the full flavor. Truffles pair well with foie gras, butter, cheese, cream, and oils.
For those who'd rather have their truffles prepared for them, several local restaurants feature truffles on their menus. Guilford's Bufalina serves a Tartufo pizza featuring truffle honey along with mozzarella and ricotta. Chow Food and Beverage Company in Clinton serves up [chow] Fries featuring black truffle oil and Hawaiian sea salt, and Moxie on Wall Street in Madison offers truffled beet chips.
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