As regular readers will know, a group of us Fonders get together in the winter of each year (well, each year of the last three. Counting this one. But traditions have to start sometime, no?) and all chip in to buy a fresh Australian truffle and cook a lovely meal to enjoy it. But Ecumer, aren't truffles thousands of dollars a kilo? How can you justify such an indulgence? Well, when you split it out, you can get enough truffle for a four-course meal for about $20 - $25 a head, cheaper than a single main course at many a modern pub. Totally worth it, once in a while.
So worth it, that this year there was enough demand for us to do two truffle dinners - one of vegetarian dishes and one not quite so vegetarian. Join us today for a vegetarian truffle dinner, not at Fond Central Kitchens but at the rather lovely table of the always lovely Kylie.
This is not the lovely Kylie. This is a truffle. A Perigord Black, to be precise.
As previously, we sourced our truffle from Perigord Truffles of Tasmania, and they arrived in overnight mail, wrapped lovingly and received happily. Truffles this year were $2,500/kg which is up from last year's $2,200. I blame the French.
It is nice to get out of our kitchen for a change. Being just a boy, and possessed of little if any aesthetic judgement, your dear old Ecumer tends to go for the simple in his kitchenware. Flatware tends to be white, stemware simple, salt and pepper grinders are brushed stainless steel, and all of it unadorned. It's never stylish, but it's never out of style either. I apply the same principle to my pants.
Our next course was a pithivier of mushroom and tarragon with a vegetarian Periguex sauce, cooked by your dear ole Ecumer.
- defrost some good quality puff pastry. Cut into 8 each of 8cm and 10cm rounds. Cut the leftover bits into strips about 3mm wide and 4-5 cm long.
- take about 300g Swiss Brown mushrooms, roughly chopped, and 1/2 bunch of tarragon, plucked off the woody twigs. Pulse in a food processor or blender until finely chopped but not a paste. Taste and season - mushrooms love salt.
- take about 150g King mushrooms. Cut the stem into 5mm slices and saute in a non-stick pan in a little oil until just brown on the outside.
- take an 8cm round of puff pastry, place on a cutting board. Put on a tablespoon of the pulsed mushroom and herb mixture, then a couple of slices of King mushroom, then a tablespoon of the pulsed mushroom and herb mixture. Top with the 10cm round of pastry and crimp the edges to seal. Decorate the top with some nice strips of puff pastry, then glaze with egg wash. Repeat with the others and put in a hot (180 C) oven until the pastry is risen and crisp on the bottom. Should take about 12 minutes.
- make a sauce by reducing 125ml good Madeira with 125ml red wine by half. Add to 250ml good vegetable stock, reduce by half again then check for taste. It will probably need a little salt as the Madeira is quite sweet. Maybe a little pepper too. Thicken with a slurry of 1 tbsp of cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp water. Add 20g of finely microplaned truffle and gently heat through.
- Serve the pastry in a pool of the sauce. What you should have is a crisp pastry around layers of soft pulsed mushroom and firm sauteed King mushroom, with a strong tarragon flavour. The sauce provides a mixture of sweet Madeira, firm red wine, full bodied texture from the cornflour and of course the oomph of the truffles.
Honesty compels me to admit that the majority voted this the Dish of the Night. I still personally look to Cardinal Jay's chawanmushi though.
Dessert was a baked hazelnut pudding with a bitter chocolate and cream sauce made by the Perigueuxse. The pudding had a lovely even firm-yet-giving texture with mild flavours; the sauce was rich, but no too much, so overall it was a fine dessert to have at the end of a dinner of richness and strong flavours.
Speaking of richness and strong flavours, the Perigueuxse and I had to dash off at this stage (work commitments the next day, darn it) but the few, the happy few, regaled themselves with a bottle of twenty year old vintage Rutherglen port.
And cheese, did I mention cheese? There was Rouzaire Brie aux Truffles, Midnight Moon -- an aged Chevre made in Europe but sold through Oregon, and a soft chevre - Florette d'Affinois. Rich, strong cheese of heft and substance. And condiments of course.
So, another extravagant truffle dinner. Justifiable? Yes, again we learnt more about how to enjoy this mystical spore and experimented with simple (poached egg) and complicated (chawanmushi, pithivier) ways of using it, and we enjoyed it in all its forms. We treated it with respect and came away happy. And any meal you can walk away from is a happy one.