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My birthday is coming up, and we saw some black truffles at Whole Foods, so we thought it was time to try cooking with this rather expensive ingredient. I've never cooked with truffles before, and it's $30 worth for a dinner. That's probably the single most expensive ingredient I've ever used in a recipe. So it's making me more than a little nervous.

How should I treat truffles while cooking with them? Are there any pitfalls to avoid?

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3 Answers

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Ok, first of all make sure you are getting French or Italian truffles, not Chinese or Oregon. Some people like the latter but they are quite a bit different. Black truffles do well cooked, while white truffles are usually only used shaved raw over a dish. When I use them, I like to use them in a situation where I will really be able to taste them. A few classic ideas are an omelette, risotto, or pasta with a cream sauce. Those all carry the flavor and aroma of truffles very well. Chop some of it very fine and put it in the dish and then slice the rest paper thin (with a mandoline if possible) over the finished food right before serving.

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Truffles are a very delicate ingredient that can lend a rich, nuanced flavor. I have always used them with other delicate flavors to bring out the complexity. I only use preparations that have 1-3 strong 'front' flavors if a delicate ingredient is included.

I have used truffles to good effect in omelettes, cream sauces, and shaved on top of certain roasted meats or fish.

Also, since they are ephemeral, it is vital to finely slice (shave) or mince them. Large pieces will be tasty, but you get less 'bang' for your truffle buck this way.

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In general, truffles don't do well with prolonged cooking. You lose the delicate fragrance associated with it.

White truffle is never cooked. Just garnish at the end - table side. Its fragrance is very delicate.

Usually you add it at the end , or shave it on top. You need to use a mandolin or truffle slicer, thick slices aren't as good as thin pieces.

In restaurants, we often preserve the truffle, or use scrap to make truffle butter. Then we use these by products as part of the cooking ingredients -e.g. as a truffle stock for risotto base, and the butter to finish the dish. Shaved truffle rounds out the dish. Thats how you get complexity and depth.

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