From all the mushrooms, the truffle is the most exquisite, tasteful and rare ingredient in gastronomy. The truffle is food from the Gods, an absolute confirmation of someone's delicacy and good taste. The truffle is a culture on its own.
A pleasure with a little mistrust is a playful description of an unique and particular culinary experience.
Jean Anthelme Brillat Savarin (1755 - 1826) wrote the book The Physiology of Taste which made him famous at the end of his life, astonishing those who knew him only as a distinguished judge in the Paris Court of Appeal.. Born in Belley, in the South- East of France, he lived in violent and eventful times, his legal career being interrupted by the French Revolution - in which initially he participated, from which he later had to flee - and exile in America. On return he became an establishment figure, a keen instinct for self-preservation enabling him to survive numerous changes of regime. He was a man of many parts, landowner, one-time mayor, amateur doctor and scientist, violinist, keen hunter, admirer of beautiful women, and author of a handful of pornographic stories.
Physiology of Taste was first published in France in 1826 and never since out of print. The Physiology of taste is an historical, philosophical and epicurean collection of reflections and anecdotes on anything and everything gastronomical.
In this article we focused on the passage about the truffle, the black diamond of an particular gastronomical experience.
The recipe at the end of the article, is from the French top chef Alain Ducasse. It was in the early 1980's that I met Alain Ducasse for the first time. He realized this Winter Truffle Salad on a afternoon during a visit in his house in the Provence. We were having an aperitif when a local farmer brought a few truffles freshly harvest in the morning.
Jean Anthelme Brillat - Savarin 1755 - 1826
The first edition of the book.
Brillat - Savarin about the Truffle, excerpt from The Physiology of Taste VII Truffles.
43: Whosoever pronounces the word truffle gives voice to one which awakens erotic and gastronomical dreams equally in the sex that wears skirts and the one that sprouts a beard.
This most honest sharing of emotions springs from the fact that the renowned tuber is not only delicious to the taste, but is believed to rouse certain powers whose tests of strenght are accompanied by the deepest pleasure.
The beginning of the truffle are not known: it can be found, but none understands how it is born or how it develops. The cleverest men have devoted themselves to it: they have believed that the seeds were found, and that they could be sown at will. Useless efforts! Lying promises!.Never yet has such a planting been followed by a harvest, and this is perhaps not two unfortunate; for, since the price of truffles depends largely on public whim, perhaps they would be less highly valued if they were abundant and inexpensive.
"Good news, my dear friend !" I said one time to Madame de V...; ' we have just been presented in the Society for the Encouragement of Industry with a new method by which the most exquisite lace can be produced, and at practically no cost!" "Heavens!" that beautiful lady answered with a bored look. "If lace were cheap, do you suppose that I would bother to wear such ragged-looking stuff ? "
The Erotic Properties of Truffles.
44: The Romans had a kind of truffle; but it does not seem probable that the French variety got as far as their tables. The ones which were so highly prized by them came from Greece, from Africa, and above all from Lybia; their flesh was white or reddish, and the Lybian truffles were at once the most sought after and the most delicate and odorous.
Gustus elementa per omnia quaerunt. Juvenal
Truffles were rare in Paris as near ago as 1780; they could be found only at the Hotel des Americains and the Hotel de Provence, and then in but small amounts; and a truffled turkey was a luxurious item which could be seen only on the tables of the highest nobility or the best-paid whores.
We owe their increasing presence to the merchants of fine edibles, whose number also has increased greatly, and who, seeing that this certain article was in high favor, have bought it up all over the kingdom and who, paying high prices and ordering it to be shipped to Paris by messenger and by fast coach express, have caused a general widespread hunt for truffles (this last being necessary since, impossible as they are to cultivate, it is only by careful search that the supply of them can be added to).
It can be stated that at this moment the glory of the truffle is at its peak. No man would assert that he had dined at a table where at least one truffled dish was wanting. The intrinsic excellence of an entree counts for nothing if it is not enriched with truffles. And who has not felt his mouth water at the mention of Truffes a la Provencale?
A saute of truffles is a plate which is concocted and served by the mistress of the house herself; in short. the truffle is the diamond of the art of cookery.
i have looked for a reason for this preference, for it has seemed to me that many other foods had an equal right to it, and I have found it in the general conviction that the truffle contributes to sexual pleasures; moreover, I have been led to conclude that the greatest part of our perfection, our predilection, and our admiration's spring from the same cause, in so powerful and general an homage do we hold this tyrannical, capricious sense!
This discovery of mine led me on to wonder if the truffle's amorous effects were real, and the opinion of it based on facts. Such a research is doubtless shocking and could be snickered at by the sly; but evil be to him who thinks it! Any truth is good to know. First of all I talked with the ladies, because they posses both a clear eye and a delicate sense of tact; but it was soon plain to me that I should have begun this project some forty years earlier and I could draw out only ironical or evasive answers.
A single friend took me in good faith, and I shall let her speak for herself: she is a sensitive unaffected woman, virtuous without being smug, and for whom passion is by now no more than a memory.
"Monsieur," she said to me, "in the days when we still served early suppers, I once served one to my husband and a friend. Verseuil (which was the latter's name) was a good - looking fellow, far from dull, who often came to our house, but he had never said a word to me which might infer that he was my suitor: and if he flirted a little with me, it was in such a discreet way that only a fool could have misunderstood it. He seemed fated, that day, to keep me company, for my husband had a business appointment and soon left us. Our supper, although light enough, had however for its main dish a superb truffled fowl. The sub-delegate of Perigueux had sent it to us. In those days that was truly a treat: and, knowing its origin, you can imagine how near perfection it came. The truffles above all were delicious, and you know how much I love them; still, I restrained myself: and I drank but one glass of wine; I had a flash of feminine intuition that the evening would not come to an end without some sort of disturbance. Soon after supper my husband left, and I was alone with Verseuil, whom he looked upon as quite without menace to our manage. For a time the conversation flowed along without much excitement. then it seemed to become more restricted and more absorbing. Verseuil showed himself successively as flattering, expansive, affectionate, caressing, and finally realizing that I did no more than lightly turn aside his prettiest phrases, he became so insistent that I could no longer hide from myself what he hoped would result. I awoke, then, as from a dream, and repulsed him all the more easily since I felt no real attraction to him. He persisted with an activity which could have become really offensive; I was hard put to it to bring him his senses; and I admit to my shame that I succeeded in doing it only by pretending to him that there might still be some hope for him, another time.
Finally he left me; I went to bed and slept like a babe. but the next morning was Judgement day for me; I thought over my behavior of the night before, and I found it infamous. i ought to have stopped Verseuil at his protestations and not have lent myself to a conversation which from the beginning promised ill. My pride ought to have awakened sooner, and my eyes should have frowned severely on him; I should have rung for help, cried out, become angry, done, in other words, everything that I did not do. What can I say to you "Monsieur"? I blame the whole thing on the truffles; I am truly convinced that they had given to me a dangerous inclination; and if I did not renounce them completely (which would have been too stern a punishment for me), at least I never eat them, now, that the pleasure they give me is not mixed with a little mistrust.
"Winter Black truffle Salad "(Truffes noires en salade d'hiver) from top and master chef Alain Ducasse
The french top chef Alain Ducasse in his kitchen
A side dressing is composed with 4cl basic vinaigrette, 20 g mashed truffles and 1 cl of truffle oil.
To make a basic vinaigrette you need 20cl of olive oil, 10cl of reduced vegetable consomme, 10 cl balsamic vinegar, 10 cl red wine vinegar, 10 cl truffle juice and Fleur de sel. Parmesan cheese.
The black gold "Perigord truffle"
Making the salad:
Clean the truffles under cold running water with a nailbrush. dry the truffles and peel with a fine bladeknife. (set the triming apart for another use. Keep always truffles in sealed jar in the fridge to avoid the dominant smell of truffles to affect your fridge content).
Stalk the morgeline lettuce, dandelion, aragula and porcelaine. Separate the curly endives and small lettuce and keep only the top of the leaves. Separate the lamb's lettuce leaves. Wash the letuces in a large amount of water keeping them separate and spin dry.
Separate the leaves of the chervil, fresh mint, tarragon, marjoram, green basil and chives. Keep only the top of the leaves. Wash the herbs in a large amount of water keeping them separate and spin.
Mix the herbs, lettuces, the Parmesan shavings and minced trufles. Season with 4 teaspoon of basic vinaigrette, fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper.
To finish and to plate the salad you have to mix all the vinaigrette ingredients. Put the lettuce and herb mis in the middle of a plate and shape a dome. Slices the truffles, dip the slices in the vinaigrette to season and cover the dome completely with the truffle slices.
Season the truffles slices with Fleur de Sel and freshly ground pepper, top with the marinated shallots and surround the dome with a ribbon of dressing, serve with a country bread toast.
Alain Ducasse cutting the black magic Perigord truffle