I must be missing something. There was one of those cooking competition shows on tonight and the judges went on and on about how much polish was given to the dish simply by using a few black truffles for garnish and by making a truffle sauce to drizzle over the meat. That dish was a winner. I just don't get it. What's the great appeal of a truffle? (We're not talking the candy variety here, folks.)
I guess I’m just not sophisticated enough but after my one and only run-in with truffles (Again, I’m not talking chocolates!) - I just don’t understand their mystique.
Some years back, The Big Guy's sister was in town for a visit with the family and we decided to go out for a special dinner at Tio Pepe’s, a popular and classy Spanish-themed restaurant in Baltimore. The Big Guy and both sister-in-laws all ordered familiar dishes but I thought one of the specials sounded good - veal stuffed with black truffles, with a truffle sauce and truffled mashed potatoes. I LOVE veal but I had no idea what a truffle actually was. My brother-in-law had also been considering the same dish but also had never had truffles.
I did ask what a truffle was. Brother-in-law authoritatively told me they were “the things pigs dig up in the French countryside.” I’m never sure when he's is putting me on and I often unconsciously play his straight man. He can be convincing. He did know what he was talking about that night but I don’t think he went far enough. I assumed it was a root vegetable like a potato or beet. Nobody mentioned it is basically a “fungus.” (I’m not a mushroom person either.) He simply asked me, “If Tio’s serves it, how bad could it be?”
When our dinners came - I was very disappointed. I thought the taste was awful and the only word I could come up with was “pungent.” Of course, the entire plate was permeated with truffles! I nibbled here and there and finally managed to down about half of my meal. At that point, Brother-in-law, also unhappy with the taste, had not eaten ANY of his meal. he called the waiter over and adamantly declared them the “WORST truffles I have ever eaten!!” (Remember, he’d never eaten any truffles before.)
The waiter apologized profusely, immediately took his plate, and brought him another meal of his choosing. I had suffered in silence and was grateful for my sister-in-law having shared her green beans with me! They were delicious. (It's kind of hard to return a meal you've already eaten half of! )
I learned something that night, the squeaky wheel really does get the oil - or at least the best meal cooked in a fantastic oil! ? (My Brother-in-law had a great meal that night.)
The second thing I learned, was to only order foods you really can identify. Even if you've never had it before, it should be something you at least know something about!
Hope y'all have a chance to have a good meal this week. (Even if you do eat and like truffles!)
Happy Thanksgiving, Serious Eaters! - With the Thanksgiving preparation madness winding down, and the cooking madness about to begin, I have to take a moment to reflect on the many, many things...