Truffles are prized the world over for their delectable scent and taste. But such luxury doesn’t come cheap. If you acquire one of these precious black or white gems, you’ll want to make the most of it. We asked several chefs involved in the 2017 Oregon Truffle Festival what foods they like to pair with truffles (with an emphasis on foods grown, caught or raised in Oregon). Their responses ranged from humble to extravagant – but all sounded delicious.
Many types of Oregon fish and shellfish go well with truffles, says Sarah Schafer with Irving Street Kitchen in Portland. She highlights two: “I like cold smoked oysters with lemon oil and black truffles, or salmon gravlax cured with white truffles.
“I would tell the home cook to remember that Oregon truffles don’t always need to be cooked to impart their flavor in a dish,” Schafer continues. “They are very delicate. Both these dishes are cold and somewhat raw, which prove that uncooked truffles can be delicious.”
Raw oysters, Dungeness crab and razor clams are also outstanding with truffles. Since the fat in cream does such an excellent job of retaining their flavor and aroma, chowder can be a great way to use any clams gathered while walking long stretches of the Oregon coast, Schafer says.
Every year the Oregon Truffle Festival puts on a breakfast with truffle-laden foods. One of the most popular things they serve isn’t a dish; it’s a drink.
“We do a dark chocolate hot chocolate with black truffle and a white chocolate hot chocolate with white truffle,” says festival culinary director Charles Ruff. “They’re very, very popular.”
Ruff doesn’t color-code when combining the two ingredients; he picks the fruiting bodies that best match the two types of chocolate. White truffles typically go best with savory foods, but they lend an intriguing pungency to white chocolate. “Black truffles – they have a very sweet flavor profile,” he says. That provides a nice contrast to the bitterness of the dark chocolate.
Cooks raring to try this at home should keep in mind that it’s not as easy as adding some truffle shavings to a cup of drinking chocolate. That’s because the flavor profile of black truffles changes over time. “When you pull them out of the ground, they exude these aromas of bananas and pineapple,” Ruff says. “As they start to ripen it changes the characteristic in their aroma.” The flavor becomes reminiscent of hazelnuts and almonds.
“Toward the end they start to take on a really good farmhouse cheese spectrum, like camembert,” Ruff says. “I try to literally pick black truffles by where they are in the ripening stage to pair with chef’s dishes” – including those sumptuous-sounding hot chocolates.
Chef Greg Denton with Portland’s Ox has combined beets and carrots with truffles at past Oregon Truffle Festival dinners with great results.
“When it comes to pairing truffles and root vegetables, we like to concentrate those flavors first and bring out the natural sweetness of the carrot and beet,” he says. That means roasting the vegetables to caramelize their sugars.
“Specifically with beets, I’ve done a beet carpaccio with ricotta and shaved truffle and olive oil,” Denton says. “Oregon black truffles have this fantastic sweetness. I think these ingredients pair really well.
“I’ve served the roasted carrots with roasted marrow, a vegetable demi-glace and shaved Oregon white truffle,” he continues. “There’s a little bit of a petrol quality to Oregon white truffles that’s unique. We think the carrots, veggie demi and marrow really bring forth some of the highlights of all of those items when they’re mixed together.”
Karl Zenk, previously executive chef at Marché, Eugene
“The things that go best with truffles are things that are kind of neutral in flavor in general,” says Karl Zenk, executive chef at Eugene’s Marché. “Anything that’s too strongly flavored it tends to mute them and you don’t really get their flavor.”
Risotto and pasta dishes are two classic ways to use truffles, Zenk says. Truffles also go nicely with potatoes. “You can do a potato soup with truffles because potatoes are another nice neutral base.”
At this year’s Oregon Truffle Festival, Zenk is planning a salad with potatoes and celeriac –a slight departure from his emphasis on using ingredients without much flavor of their own, but one he’s excited to present. “The celeriac has a sweet, nutty flavor and the truffles go really nicely with it,” he says.