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Truffles

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I recently had a delicious dish of lamb ravioli at Lupa. It was covered with truffles (white, I think), and when I tasted just the truffles, the flavor was very subtle. I have limited experience with truffles, and I'm wondering if that's the way they are supposed to be. Do they usually have a big, bold flavor or are they the kind of subtle ingredient that makes other things taste better and brings a dish together? Do different kinds have dramatically different tastes? I'm prepared to be educated.

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    Caitlin McGrath

    White truffles have a quite subtle flavor, which is why they're shaved raw over cooked dishes rather than cooked themselves (their flavor can't stand up to cooking); black truffles have a much stronger flavor, which is very earthy, in the way some kinds of mushrooms are, but more so (IMO). While I'm a mushroom lover, I'm actually not a big fan of the flavor of black truffles.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

      Truffles vary significantly in flavor and aroma. The best white truffles I have ever had were quite pungent, more so than any black truffles I've had. Problem is, I've never had them that good again.

      There are theories that the best of the truffles are mostly gone. That the most aromatic of all are the most easily "hunted" and are therefore are practically extinct. I honestly don't know if these theories are valid because I don't know anything about fungus DNA.

      BTW, I believe that storing truffles in rice sucks the flavor right out of them. My advice would be to eat what you have right away, or to vacuum pack and freeze what you simply can't use. White truffle oil soothes the craving in the off season.

      1. re: Greg Spence

        "BTW, I believe that storing truffles in rice sucks the flavor right out of them..."

        But the rice would be so full of the truffle aroma, that IT becomes the dish. Truffle itself doesn't have much in the way of texture anyway.(at least not the ones I've had here in the US)

        1. re: HLing

          You'd think the rice would become the dish itself, but the process of cooking the rice further dilutes the flavor and aroma of truffle to the point of near non - exsistence. I've done this probably 35-40 times and it never fails to disappoint me.

          1. re: Greg Spence

            Were each of the 35-40 times a different approach to try to get more of that truffle scent to remain? How did you cook the rice?

            1. re: HLing

              I've tried boiling and steaming, with and without adding truffle pieces to enhance the flavor. I've riosottoed, baked (covered and uncovered) and browned before steaming. I followed these methods for a long time before coming to the conclusion that I was wasting flavor. Since you're sure of your expertise, why don't you just tell me the method you use that is so successful.

              1. re: Greg Spence

                I'm not and probably will never be as experienced as you are in truffle rice cooking. Forgive me if I came off sounding like I thought I was an expert. I think I'm just at the point you were before you start the first of the 40 times, thinking that since the rice sucks the flavor off the truffles, the rice must now have IT, the wonderful aroma....how to make it?...

                The Japanese have a fascination with Matsutake, (pine mushroom), which has an incredible pine/resin scent. They will treasure every little bit of that mushroom however they can. One of the method is similar to how we make coddled eggs, which seals in the flavor and juices. That is when the mushroom is whole and in good condition. If there are some little pieces of mushroom that's not enough for a dish, they will chop them up and mix it in the steam rice. The flavor of course wouldn't be as intense in this case, but it's comforting enough to know that nothing's been wasted.