“Truffle is the food for kings, gods and pigs.”
—Chef Antonio Carluccio
Truffles make almost anything better, bringing an out-of-this world flavor wherever they’re put. To say that they’re mushroom-y would barely cover it: the taste is powerful, aromatic, and full of an umami richness that is unmatched by any other foodstuff. Although they’re pricey because of their scarcity and difficulty to source, for a special occasion you simply can’t find a more worthy splurge.
So what is a truffle? In short, it’s a type of fungus that grows underground near the roots of trees. Since they can’t be seen from the surface, many truffle hunters use dogs (or in some cases pigs) to sniff them out. They only grow in the wild and cannot be cultivated, with each variety appearing during its own season. White truffles peak in the fall, while black truffles are at their most abundant in the early months of the year—right in time for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner.
Fresh truffles offer the biggest burst of flavor—so much that you only need a very thin shaving to enjoy them. But they’re not the only way to get that unmistakable taste into dishes. From all-purpose oils to cheeses and charcuterie that have little bits packed in, here are some of delicious the ways you can get your truffle on:
Depending on the season, you’ll find different truffle varieties in stock. Black truffles have a muskier, earthy flavor, while white truffles are more garlicky and pungent. Burgundy truffles, available in summer and fall, are known for their nuttiness. Fresh truffles are delicate and perishable, so make sure to use them within a few days. You can shave them into thin slices using a special truffle mandolin, but grating them on a microplane or zester also works.
Truffle oils are a more affordable all-purpose alternative to the fresh stuff. They’re produced by infusing a base oil, such as olive oil, with the fresh product. FreshDirect carries black and white truffle oils from Da Rosario, which are made with actual truffles. But beware: many truffle oils on the market are created using imitation flavors, so check first that you’re getting the real stuff.
There are a number of spreads and sauces that are a natural match for truffles’ flavor. Truffle mayonnaise is an excellent way to make your sandwiches and burgers truly extraordinary. There’s also truffle salad dressing, which will bring out the best in fresh veggies. And for a sweet twist, there’s truffle honey, which is an excellent addition to cheese and charcuterie boards, or as a glaze for meat.
Truffles make the big, savory flavors of cheese even bigger. Moliterno al Tartufo, which is produced in Sardinia, is arguably the most well known. This firm, Parmesan-like cheese features deep veins of truffles for a flavor experience that’s truly unlike any other. You’ll also find Perlagrigia Sotto Cenere al Tartufo on FreshDirect, which is softer with a melt-in-your-mouth texture. And make sure to keep an eye out for seasonal offerings throughout the year—Brie with truffles is a FreshDirect Christmastime favorite.
Charcuterie and salted meats are another obvious match for truffles, with their flavors becoming deeper and all the more decadent. Truffle salami from Charlito’s Cocina is pretty much an umami explosion, with the saltiness of the cured pork and the earthiness of the truffles coming together beautifully. Truffle paté is a classically French delicacy, bringing intense creaminess to charcuterie boards and certain savory recipes. And for some slighty more everyday options, try truffle jerky from Righteous Felon or truffle sausages from True Story.
How To Use Truffles
Fresh truffles and truffle oil will basically act as an amplifier to any savory dish. They work best with ingredients that are predominantly salty or creamy, whereas heavily spiced recipes will tend to clash or drown out with them. Since truffles are most strongly associated with French and Italian cuisines, you’ll easily find ways to incorporate them in dishes from those countries: think pasta, risotto, gratins, eggs, or potatoes. The possibilities hardly end there, however. Truffle mac ‘n’ cheese, truffle fries, or creamy soups with truffle are just a few other favorites. Our own obsession is these truffle cacio e pepe chips, which we break out during festive celebrations.
When working with fresh truffles in particular, one thing to note is that they should always be added at the end as a garnish or finishing touch. Many chefs consider cooking with truffles to be a no-no, since heat can destroy or weaken their taste.