In late fall and early winter—white truffle season—in Piedmont, restaurants on every level offer these precious, fragrant tubers "on the side", at a fixed price. For that amount, you may have a portion of truffle shaved directly onto your pasta or risotto or anything else. This risotto, incidentally, is very good even without the truffles.
1/2 oz. dried porcini
3 cups chicken stock
1 to 1-1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 large shallots, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
2 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 cup carnaroli or other risotto rice
1/2 cup chianti or other dry Italian red wine
1/2 lb. fresh wild mushrooms
(e.g., chanterelles, morels, or porcini), cleaned and sliced
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 to2 oz. fresh white truffles, or more
1. Soak dried porcini in 1 cup very hot water for 30 minutes. Remove porcini and reserve liquid. Rinse porcini thoroughly, drain well, chop coarsely, and set aside. Strain liquid through a fine sieve or coffee filter and set aside.
2. In a medium pot, bring stock to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and keep stock warm over low heat.
3. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic, and sage and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted and coated with butter, about 5 minutes.
4. Add wine and cook until absorbed, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Stir in all the mushrooms, including reserved dried porcini, along with porcini liquid and 1/2 cup chicken stock. Maintaining a simmer, cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is almost absorbed, 3 to 5 minutes. Continue adding stock, about 3/4 cup at a time, stirring frequently, until rice is tender but firm to the bite and mixture is creamy but not soupy, about 20 minutes.
5. Remove risotto from heat, stir in parmigiano, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately. Shave white truffles directly onto risotto at the table.
White truffles are one of the most intensely aromatic—some people say stinky—foodstuffs known to human-kind. They've been accused of smelling like everything from old gym socks to, well, sex—and their perfume is so pervasive that Italians forbid passengers to carry them on public transportation. That said, it is hardly surprising that the first rule for buying white truffles is: If it doesn't have a strong aroma, don't buy it. You should also look for truffles that are firm but not unyielding to the touch (they shouldn't feel spongy) and that are pale beige in color. Restaurateurs tend to prefer cosmetically perfect truffles, round and more or less smooth, but shape doesn't affect flavor. Avoid cracked, broken truffles, though, or any that are riddled with little holes. White truffles are now readily available in the U.S. in the late fall and early winter months, but they are inevitably very expensive. The good news is that a little truffle goes a long way.
Saveur Cooks Authentic Italian
Savoring the Recipes and Traditions of the World's Favorite Cuisine
By the editors of Saveur Magazine
Chronicle Books, 2001
9-5/8 x 10 in; 320 pp
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created May 2002
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