I had been reading about truffles in a book by Elizabeth Luard, and it is possible that I may have been doing a bit of moaning about how sad it was that a funghi fancier such as yours truly was unlikely to ever get a chance to taste truffles, or try cooking with one. That can be the only explanation for my having received a half ounce of canned black truffle in a tiny little glass jar, on the occasion of my birthday.
Not my usual sort of thing, fancy-pants stuff, and all that. But sometimes a person gets a bee in her bonnet. I was definitely thrilled with my treat. I think the little jar is, itself, adorable, and if you look closely you will see that there is a small black puddle inside. The jar lists "truffle juice", as an ingredient. For some reason, I find this fetching.
From the start I was (ungraciously and silently) worried that this was not a fresh truffle of certain origin, as it is clear that Ms. L. feels that just about everything that is extraordinary about truffles is dependant on these two factors. But hey, I never expected to have any sort of truffle, after all. Anyway, I was all set to go once I found this Paula Wolfert recipe in The Cooking of Southwest France. The truffles it calls for can be fresh or canned, and it involves slow-scrambled eggs, a personal favorite.
The characteristic Paula Wolfert fiddliness was exactly what I was looking for-I wanted to fuss a bit over my one-time truffle, yet not to drown it in extras; after all, I was wondering what it tasted like. Not to mention that she's such a stickler that if she says a canned truffle is okay here-well, I'll just generally believe her.
This is quite a rich prepartion, what with the butter and cream and so forth. But it is meant to be served in small portions, in little ramekins, as a starter. So- not so much. And this amount, made with 5 eggs, should serve three. This is what you need:
a black truffle-fresh or canned PW doesn't specify weight-I went with most of the can one small truffle, plus a bit more
5 very nice eggs
3-4 tbsps unsalted butter
pinch of favorite sea salt
1-2 tbsps heavy cream
About an hour before serving, slice half of the truffle thinly, and the rest into teensy cubes. Break the eggs into a fine wire sieve over a bowl. Crush the yolks by gently pushing them against the sieve with the back of a wooden spoon. Let them drip through, it takes about an hour. I know, I know. But this sort of thing is fun sometimes, no? You needn't be entirely O.C. to enjoy it.
Butter the inside of the top of a teeny double boiler (I have a pint-sized flea market one, the lid is chipped, but the insides are perfect- it was just right). Set over the bottom, which should be half full of just simmering water. Add the eggs and half the butter, and stir with a wooden or silicon spatula. Cook, stirring constantly, one to two minutes.Add the salt and pepper, and stir until barely thickened. 6-7 minutes or so, keeping heat very low, gradually adding the rest of the butter. Keep scraping the sides and bottom. When the eggs begin to hold together, stir in the diced truffle and cream. Cook 1 minute more, and scoop into ramekins. Garnish with the slivered truffle. Serve asap. Probably, you shouldn't stop to take a photo.
In any event, it was delicious, because I love this kind of eggs. But I could barely taste the truffle-despite the high ratio of truffle to egg. I think I would have enjoyed it more with some sauteed wild mushroom, minced and mixed in,in place of the truffle, which was, frankly, a dud. So I guess Elizabeth Luard was right . Probably whichever sort of canned truffle PW had in mind was a different animal entirely. I suppose I'll try sliding the rest, in slivers, under the skin of my soon-to-be-roasted chicken, and see if it has any noticeable effect. Someday, I would love to try me a fresh truffle. Maybe there is some Truffle Merchants' Association to sponsor a research grant? Somehow, I suspect they don't have to do much advertising.