Friday, August 31, 2018

A Few of My Favorite Fall Things: Truffles, Cheese, & Barolo #ItalianFWT


Fall might just be my favorite season. Not that the seasons here on California's central coast are very pronounced. While I love the pop of Spring wildflowers and lazy days of lounging in a hammock during Summer vacation, this season brings out my hankering for two distinctly Fall things: truffles and Barolo.

And this month, Jill of L'Occasion is hosting the Italian Food Wine Travel bloggers as we post about our Favorite Italian Wines for Fall. Read her invitation here. If you are reading this early enough, feel free to join us for a Twitter chat on Saturday, September 1st at 8am (Pacific time). Or you can read the conversation at your leisure anytime by searching for #ItalianFWT.

The Line-Up


I Tartufi
To me, nothing says autumn in Italy more than truffles. Truffles. I tartufi. In gourmet circles around the world, they are a treasure and - both figuratively and literally - worth their weight in gold. But in many parts of Italy, come autumn, they are just an ingredient that has absolutely nothing to do with gourmet sophistication. Truffles are a seasonal food just like any other.

I am lucky enough to have friends who own Italian restaurants here in town. A couple of years ago, I headed to one of the restaurants, spent twenty minutes with Emanuele, and learned more about truffles than hours of research would have taught me.

In fact, hours of research would not have allowed me to smell the truffles for that distinctive earthy scent or squeeze them gently for that desirable sponginess, or listen to Emanuele explain how his friend harvests the truffles in Alba.


If you are unfamiliar, you might be wondering: What are truffles?

Truffles are a fungi and, so, related to mushrooms. But, unlike their mushroom cousins, truffles form beneath the surface of the soil and can only thrive in the conditions near stands of oaks, willows, and linden trees. All over northern and central Italy, fresh truffles are on tables in the Fall. And when they aren't in season, you can find them preserved in jars and cans.

There is a restaurant in Rome that made a unique gelato al tartufo. I was tempted to recreate that for this event, but the weather has turned cold and gelato was not high on my list of to-dos. And, this year, I didn't see that Emanuele had any truffles at his restaurant in time for this event, so I went with a truffle cheese. But first...


In My Glass
Barolo is a red wine produced in the Piedmont region of Italy made from the Nebbiolo grape. Nebbiolo is a small, thin-skinned grape varietal that's generally high in acid and tannins; the resulting wine is usually rich, full-bodied and carries that acidity and tannins with it.


I was able to get my hands on a Virna Barolo 2013. To the eye, it's a rich ruby shade. To the nose, the bouquet is subtle with hints of sweet cherries, spicy pepper, and even earthy truffles. It's dry and elegant with a long, flavorful finish.


On My Plate
Because of that earthy hint of truffles, I decided to make a fonduta with truffle cheese and truffle oil since I couldn't get my hands on any truffles ahead of this event. Fonduta is similar to fondue but includes egg yolks and milk to make it lusciously rich and creamy. 


Ingredients
  • 1/2 pound cheese (I used a mixture of cheeses plus some truffled gouda)
  • 1 C whole milk
  • 3 egg yolks (reserve the whites for something else, such as meringues)
  • 3 T butter
  • 1/2 t truffle oil
  • bread for serving

Procedure 
In a shallow bowl, combine the cheese and milk, submerging the cheese fully in the milk. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, or refrigerate overnight.

Drain off 1/2 C of the milk and place it in a bowl with the egg yolks. Whisk until blended.

Put the cheese, the remaining milk and the butter in a heatproof bowl that will fit snugly in the rim of a saucepan, making a double-boiler. Pour about 2 inches of water into the saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Adjust the heat so the water simmers gently, and suspend the bowl with the cheese over the simmering water. Heat, stirring often, until the cheese is melted and smooth, approximately 3 minutes. Slowly add the egg yolk mixture while whisking constantly. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, approximately 5 minutes more.

Pour the fonduta over the hunks of bread. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

6 comments:

  1. I think truffles is an acquired taste. I use my truffle oil very sparingly, since Frank hasn't seemed to acquire it yet LOL. This fondue sounds amazing. Perfect for a Fall night around the campfire. Can't wait to give it a try.

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  2. I have to admit, I'm with Wendy on this one. As much as I think truffles are cool and unique, I also think a little goes a long way!

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  3. Sounds like the perfect recipe for a snowy winter's day. We don't have such days here in Miami, but maybe if I turn the a/c up really high, I can pretend. :-)

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  4. Truffles is such an acquired taste and I agree with the rest of the bunch that the white truffles I enjoy are very strong and I use it sparingly. Must have been such an informative session meeting with your friends learning all about them. I wish I was in your house for this tasting!

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  5. I thought I was the only person lukewarm on truffles. I like the earthy flavor maybe the key is less is more! I have never heard of Fonduta, I will have to try it with a glass of Barolo of course!

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