So we are ostensibly in Piemonte to visit family and introduce the newest addition to the family. Fortune has smiled on me as my husband’s family live very close to the one place the very rare and intoxicating white truffle (tuber magnatum pico) is found. While most people have heard of the chocolate truffle, a few cognoscenti know that it is named for its resemblance to this type of fungus that grows underground.
A few truffles have started to trickle in over the past couple of weeks but the real season is just starting. As it is not yet possible to cultivate white truffles because they only grow under the right conditions in northern and central Italy, they are incredibly rare (and expensive). Locals jealously guard their locations and return annually with truffle sniffing dogs (traditionally pigs were used but they stopped using them as they eat the truffles) to find their funghi treasure. We are truffle hunting this week so wish us luck and watch this space to see what we (hopefully) find.
White truffles, unlike black truffles, should not be cooked in order to preserve their perfume and intense flavour. Their flavour is enhanced by fat so are best served with butter or egg yolk. The dish adorned with paper thin shavings of white truffle is ideally mildly flavoured to allow the truffle to shine through. Traditional Piedmontese dishes topped with white truffle are white risotto, tajarin (thin strands of fresh egg pasta) in a butter chicken broth sauce, eggs with white truffle, fondue and chopped raw beef.
I will share with you my recipe for a dish I had at Da Cesare of polenta with chestnuts, egg yolk and white truffle.
As it happens, I discovered this dish on the day we got engaged. I had booked dinner at Da Cesare in Albaretto della Torre as a present for my husband’s birthday. Outside the weather was brisk and the leaves turning gold and red. When we entered the cosy restaurant there was kid goat being spit-roasted in the fireplace. We sat at a small table in the back room and waited as the dishes began to arrive. Every dish was memorable but we both fondly remember the lowly steaming bowl of polenta placed before us. On top was a creamy lightly poached egg yolk, salty crystally Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese shavings, dots of earthy but slightly sweet chestnuts and for a majestic finale, white truffles shaved over top. While perhaps my husband wished to capture the moment in order to spend the rest of his life with that plate of polenta, he did propose marriage to me. During truffle season we like to make this dish as it brings back such fond memories. For illustrated step-by-step instructions, click here.
Polenta con tuorlo, Parmigiano-Reggiano, castagne e tartufi bianchi (polenta with poached egg yolk, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, chestnut cream and white truffles)
350 grams polenta
5 ml olive oil
120 gms chestnut, roasted or boiled and shelled, or tinned
40 ml single cream
30 grams Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved
60 gms white truffle, wiped clean with a damp cloth
Puree the chestnut with the cream, a pinch of salt and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper in a Cuisinart until it forms a paste. Use some hot water to loosen the paste until it is just pourable but still thick.
Bring to a boil 1.8 litres of water, 5 mls of olive oil and 10 grams of sea salt. Drizzle in the polenta while continually stirring and cook for the amount of time indicated on the packaging (if not indicated, cook for 20 minutes).
Meanwhile bring to a boil a small pot of water. Add ice and water to a small bowl and set aside. During the last 6 minutes of cooking the polenta, add the eggs to the water and simmer for 6 minutes. Dip the eggs into the ice water to make the shells cool enough to handle with your fingers.
Pour the polenta into 4 bowls. Drizzle the chestnut cream around the edges. Use a wet spoon to create a small well in the middle of the polenta. Crack the egg and remove the shell. Gently peel back the egg white to remove the yolk and place it in the well of the polenta. Place the shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano over top and shave the white truffle over top. Serve immediately.
To make the polenta in the thermomix, place the water, oil and salt in the TM bowl and set to 12 minutes, 100C on speed 1. Add the polenta slowly while the blades running on speed 1. Set to 8 minutes (depends on the timing indicated on the package), 100C and Speed 2.
While your mouth will definitely thank you for this recipe, please share the joy with friends and family. If you want your partner to propose marriage, all I can say is this dish worked a treat for me!